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Ole Miss WR A.J. Brown leaving Rebels early for NFL

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Another hour, another talented player leaving eligibility on the table to pursue his NFL dream.

On his personal Twitter account Tuesday afternoon, A.J. Brown confirmed that he will be foregoing his senior season in Oxford and will make himself available for the 2019 draft.  Given his talent level and skill set, the early move to the NFL was expected.

“Thank you to the Ole Miss family,” the wide receiver wrote. “You have welcomed me with open arms. Ole Miss is a special place & has been since I took my first official visit. …

“I’ll never forget the place that turned me into a man.”

Brown will finish his collegiate career with 189 receptions for 2,984 yards and 19 touchdowns.  The 6-1, 230-pound receiver has been named first-team All-SEC each of the past two seasons, and was one of three unanimous selections in 2018 (Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen).

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey scolds players, ADs on both sides of Egg Bowl brawl

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Ole Miss AD Ross Bjork, Mississippi State John Cohen, you have a trip to Birmingham in your future. The principal wants to see you.

Following a chippy (to put it lightly) Egg Bowl that saw No. 18 Mississippi State beat Ole Miss 35-3 in Oxford and players and officials chirping at each other after the game, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey is about ready to turn this car around and drive straight home with both sides of the Egg Bowl rivalry.

“It remains disappointing to have seen the unnecessary actions during and after the Mississippi State at Ole Miss game on Thursday night. These actions are unacceptable and my concern relates to the bigger issue of the repeated incidents before, during and after games between these football programs,” Sankey said in a statement.  “These incidents have become too common in this series. I will require both athletics directors to meet with me at the SEC Office in the off-season to review past issues and develop a plan for the purpose of creating a healthier environment for this annual game.”

Here’s a taste of the action that transpired during the game.

And after.

Sankey also specifically called out two players from each team.

The SEC’s review of the in-game altercation determined that four players should have been called for flagrant personal foul penalties: #38 Johnathan Abram and #2 Jamal Peters of Mississippi State and #1 A.J. Brown and #2 Matt Corral of Ole Miss. 

Of course, there is a ton of recent history here, where Mississippi State’s Leo Lewis narced on Ole Miss in an NCAA recruiting investigation, which led to discoveries, by a Mississippi State fan, that forced Hugh Freezeto resign.

And that’s just scratching the surface.

Egg Brawl in the Egg Bowl: No. 18 Mississippi State thumps rival Ole Miss in victory

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A year ago in the Egg Bowl, Nick Fitzgerald sat on a stretcher after an awful ankle injury and watched his team struggle offensively against their in-state rivals in a devastating loss. A season later and fully healthy, the senior quarterback showed just what kind of impact he can have over a full game as his No. 18 Mississippi State squad thumped — literally and figuratively it turns out — Ole Miss 35-3 on Thanksgiving night in Oxford.

Fitzgerald showcased just why he was one of the top dual-threat signal-callers in the country coming into 2018, throwing for an efficient 111 yards and a touchdown while doing most of his damage on the ground with 117 yards rushing and two more scores. His ability to tuck and run kept the Landshark defense guessing all night long and helped the tailback tandem in the backfield with him do plenty of damage of their own. Fellow senior Aeris Williams recorded 64 yards rushing and a score while back of the future Kylin Hill was even better, breaking off several impressive runs on his way to 108 yards and a touchdown.

While the MSU offense has sputtered at times this season, safe to say Joe Moorhead’s group saved one of their better performances for the end of the regular season even if the final numbers were not quite eye-popping.

Even with that said though, the Bulldogs defense also showcased why they’re one of the best units in the SEC, if not the nation. They held Ole Miss to zero third down conversions on the night and held them well below just about every season average. Add in four sacks and a trio of turnovers and it was quite the performance in front of a national audience.

The same group also was involved in one of the most bizarre moments of the game — and one that figures to be discussed in the state for weeks and years to come — when it had appeared as though Rebels wideout A.J. Brown had scored a touchdown. Safety Johnathan Abram got into a fight with him after scoring though and that spilled over into several minor skirmishes before referees and coaches were able to break things up. Every single player on both sides was given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty while Ole Miss’ C.J. Moore was ejected from the game along with Bulldogs Jamal Peters, Cameron Dantzler and William Gay.

And the play that caused it all didn’t even happen because they reviewed things and the third quarter clock had actually expired. Nothing like Egg Bowl theatrics, that’s for sure.

That fight will take away from the fact that the Rebels couldn’t get much done with their normally prolific offense. QB Jordan Ta’amu threw for only 87 yards and threw an interception but most notably injured his hand while fumbling early in the first half. Though he did briefly return to action a few series later, he left the game for good by the third quarter and had turned things fully over to freshman backup Matt Corral. The youngster wound up throwing for 65 yards and a pick himself but really endeared himself to the home fans by sticking up for his wideout when the fight broke out by getting right in the middle of the action.

Either way, it was probably not the way Matt Luke wanted to close out the season with the Rebels. Not only did Ole Miss fall to 5-7 overall in 2018, but they closed out their final campaign under a bowl ban with a four game losing streak.

The Egg Bowl victors, meanwhile, find themselves on the opposite end of the spectrum by winning four of their final five that included a competitive loss to Alabama. There was some questions about the Selection Committee ranking next to their name the last few weeks but MSU certainly have showcased what they’re capable of down the stretch in the rough SEC West and should be able to look forward to a pretty good bowl next month as well.

Most importantly, the team was able to hold that golden trophy up at the end of the night for the first time with their new head coach… and the last time with their stellar senior quarterback a year after he had his own bit of heartbreak in the rivalry game.

Biletnikoff Award semifinalists are heavy on Big 12 receivers

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College football’s award season is coming soon, which means various individual awards are trimming down their massive watch lists to much smaller lists of semifinalists, and soon finalists. The Biletnikoff Award, which honors the nation’s best receiver regardless of position, released its list of 11 semifinalists for its award this season. As expected, some of the nation’s leading receivers managed to make the cut midway through November.

The list of semifinalists includes some of the top receivers from the Big 12 with Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown, West Virginia’s David Sills V, Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace, and Texas Tech’s Antoine Wesley are among the 11 semifinalists for the award. Wesley leads the nation in average receiving yards per game with 134.7 ypg. Wallace is not far behind with 128.2 ypg. Those two are among the seven receivers who have already eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark this season.

UMass receiver Andy Isabella, who leads the nation with 1,479 receiving yards was also named a semifinalist for the award. Hawaii’s John Ursua, the nation’s leader in receiving touchdowns (15) also made the cut.

The SEC’s top two receivers, A.J. Brown of Ole Miss (SEC-leading 1,047 receiving yards) and Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy (SEC-leading 10 touchdowns and second-most receiving yards, 925 yards). Arizona State’s N'Keal Harry, among the Pac-12 leaders in receiving yards and touchdowns, is joined by Stanford’s JJ Arcega-Whiteside as the Pac-12’s semifinalists.

Freshman star Rondale Moore of Purdue is the only player from a Big Ten school named a semifinalist for the award. Among the power conferences, the Big Ten has the longest drought of Biletnikoff Award winners with Braylon Edwards of Michigan being the last Big Ten player to win the award in 2004. The Big 12 has dominated the award over the past decade with seven Biletnikoff Award winners since 2007 including the last three years (Corey Coleman of Baylor in 2015, Dede Westbrook of Oklahoma in 2016, and James Washington of Oklahoma State in 2017) and two back-to-back winners (Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech in 2007-2008 and Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State in 2010 and 2011).

This list of 11 semifinalists will be trimmed down to three finalists on Nov. 19. The 2018 Biletnikoff Award will be presented on Dec. 6 at The Home Depot College Football Awards Presentation on ESPN.

Ole Miss loses WR D.K. Metcalf for the season

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Ole Miss has lost standout wide receiver D.K. Metcalf for the season to a neck injury sustained during the Rebels’ win over Arkansas on Saturday. Rebels head coach Matt Luke made the announcement on Monday.

“(Metcalf) hurt his neck, and it’s worse than we originally thought,” Luke said. “He’ll be done for the season. Long-term, he’ll bounce back and he’ll be fine. We’ll make sure he gets the very best care.”

A sophomore from Oxford, Miss., Metcalf paired with junior A.J. Brown to give Ole Miss one of the best passing attacks in the SEC. While Brown leads the club in catches (50) and yards (650), Metcalf is the Rebels’ big play threat, hauling in 26 catches for 569 yards and a team-high five touchdowns. His 21.88 yards per reception average trails only Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy among all players with at least 25 grabs.

Metcalf posted two games of at least 100 receiving yards and a touchdown grab this season and provided Ole Miss’s only points in a 62-7 loss to No. 1 Alabama earlier this year, hauling in a 75-yard touchdown grab to open the scoring.