They call it the Egg Bowl, but the annual Mississippi State-Ole Miss football game has nothing to do with the state’s farming prowess. In fact, according to Department of Agriculture data, Iowa is the largest egg producer in the United States (15%), followed by Ohio and Indiana (both 9%). Mississippi isn’t even mentioned in this 2021 Egg-STAT-ic post.
So what’s up with the nickname? Well, that’s what happens when fans need something shiny to distract them from malicious thoughts, and a newspaper headline writer decides to take matters into his own hands.
Let’s start with the trophy and the original nickname. Although the rivalry dates back to 1901 – State won the first game, Ole Miss the second – no post-game prize was awarded until 1927. And the reason for the change was practical: the officials needed something to grab the attention of the crowd Game was over. A year earlier, a massive brawl broke out among the fan communities. In an effort to “promote a clean spirit of sportsmanship,” both student bodies commissioned a trophy called The Golden Egg. It was golden and shiny and beautiful… and because it was more blunt than the usual soccer ball and didn’t have raised edges to mimic the stitching of a soccer ball, it looked exactly like a golden egg.
Fast-forward half a century and the gameday edition of The Clarion-Ledger in 1978. Editor-in-Chief Tom Patterson—perhaps weary of an unnecessarily wordy moniker, perhaps pointing to a certain pun style—wrote the headline, “Egg Bowl Stands for Scramble.” And the Egg Bowl evolved from an abbreviation into a sort of official-unofficial nickname, which both schools use interchangeably with The Battle for the Golden Egg.
But that’s all backstory. You could call it the battle for the fuzzy soybean (the state’s number one agricultural export) and it would still be captivating. While Alabama-Auburn, Michigan-Ohio State and Florida-Florida State may have greater national relevance in terms of their impact on the national championship race, no Rivalry Week game generates more drama than Mississippi State-Ole Miss. (Once an SEC power broker, ESPN’s Mark Schlabach said the rivalry “makes Ohio State-Michigan and Auburn-Alabama look like Sunday school.”) When they first played, there was a one-hour delay because Ole Miss State accused of playing non-students.
There was a lot of fighting and more than enough trifles shared between the two schools. When Dan Mullen was the Bulldogs’ head coach, he refused to name the Rebs. Instead, he simply referred to “The School Up North” in interviews. House rosters took advantage of the easy substitution to TSUN for Ole Miss.
The two current coaches are actually pretty chummy these days, but the two programs can’t help but argue. They can’t even agree on basic facts. Though both cite Ole Miss as the series leader with a record of 64-48-6, the state of Mississippi says the game was played 27 times on Thanksgiving, and Ole Miss puts the number at 30.
Whichever record book you subscribe to, the rivalry will be played for the 119th time this Thanksgiving (7 p.m. ET, ESPN). To prepare you, here are some of the most interesting games in Egg Bowl history.
1983: The Immaculate Diversion
Nicknames are sometimes misleading. The “Flawless Distraction” wasn’t a distraction at all – unless you believe in cosmic events. Mississippi State, which was 17-0 up with 24 seconds left and was 24-23 behind, had a game-winning field goal within reach. Artie Crosby attempted the 27-yard kick and it seemed to be on the right track – good height, good line, all good. State supporters began to celebrate. But then the ball stopped at the apex. It was as if Mother Nature had knocked him down herself, the strong gust of wind carried the ball to the far left of the goal post.
Mississippi State coach Emory Bellard marveled, “I’ve never seen a recoil in my years as a coach.
1999: The Pickaxe and the Kick
This game could be the best in the history of the rivalry. It was one of those rare occasions when both schools were ranked 23rd: Ole Miss 23rd, Mississippi State 18th. The Rebs took a 20-6 lead, but the Bulldogs fought back to level the game with just 27 seconds remaining.
And instead of playing for overtime on the road, Ole let Miss Romaro Miller air in the field. Only Robert Bean parried the pass and threw it in the air. Eugene Clinton came under and caught the interception around the 50 yard line and ran the ball back to the 27 with 8 seconds left. Scott Westerfield then connected with the 44 yard field goal that won the game. When Ole Miss left the borders on the kickoff return, fans stormed the field.
2013: Dak announces his arrival
Legends are made in rivalry games. Before leading Mississippi state to No. 1 in 2014 and before setting school records to become a fourth-round draft pick a year later, Dak Prescott was in his first season as a sophomore and was dealing with an arm injury that left him threw out of the two games before the Egg Bowl. And he was on the touchline for the first three quarters against Ole Miss.
But when the Bulldogs were down by a field goal with 11 minutes left, Prescott persuaded Mullen to let him in the game. After knocking off the grid on his first drive, he threw the offense for 59 yards in 13 games to secure a game-changing field goal. Then, in overtime, he ran for the winning touchdown.
2019: The expensive dog pee punishment
Mississippi State escapes with a 21-20 win after Ole Miss WR Elijah Moore was penalized for celebrating a touchdown by pretending to urinate like a dog and the Rebels missed the following extra point.
First, there must be context about the Egg Bowl in order to end all Egg Bowls. Because if you thought the 2019 game marked the first time an Ole Miss player faked urinating on the Mississippi State field, you’d be wrong. Two years earlier, after a pregame scuffle late in the third quarter, DK Metcalf scored a touchdown, moved his leg to mimic a dog pee, and received a 15-yard penalty.
And just to make sure the fire was still burning before the trip back to Starkville, let’s not forget AJ Brown’s wannabe touchdown at the end of a third-quarter blowout at Oxford and the shove and shove that turned into a brawl. To emphasize the lack of courtesy, the referees awarded a penalty kick to each player from both teams.
OK, now for 2019. Egg Bowl history has seen wild plays and wild finishes, but no game has produced more fireworks than 2019. After drawing in the first half, the Bulldogs took the lead by a Garrett Shrader 5-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. And it looked like it might have, as Ole Miss punched twice and threw an interception in the fourth quarter. But then, with two minutes left, Matt Corral, who had come on as a substitute for starter John Rhys Plumlee, drove the Rebs 80 yards in 11 games. On the 2-yard line, with just 4 seconds left, Corral found Elijah Moore in the end zone in what looked like the tie. Except Moore repeated Metcalf’s antics, pulled his leg up right in front of a referee, and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The touchdown held, but you can guess what happened next. Luke Logan was pushed back 15 yards from the penalty kick, missed the point on the try and State won.
In a game where both coaches were in the hot seat, neither survived. Ole Miss fired Matt Luke days later and replaced him with headline-grabbing Lane Kiffin. Not to be outdone, the state of Mississippi fired Joe Moorhead and got its own big name in Mike Leach.