STARKVILLE • There is much more at stake for Mississippi State tonight than simply retaining possession of the Golden Egg Trophy.
The Bulldogs enter the Egg Bowl against in-state rival Ole Miss one win shy of extending their bowl streak to a 10th- consecutive season. MSU will go for that elusive sixth victory at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN.
“The kids are aware of it and it’s something that we really don’t need to talk about,” said MSU coach Joe Moorhead. “They know we’re right on the cusp of bowl eligibility and we’ve got to win this one to get to the postseason. I don’t believe in feeling pressure, I believe in applying pressure.”
The Bulldogs (5-6, 2-5 SEC) claimed a decisive 35-3 victory over the Rebels in Oxford last season. But Ole Miss’ offense is much different this time around. The Rebels (4-7, 2-5 SEC) lead the league in rushing at 278.9 yards per game and have gone for over 400 in the past two games.
Ole Miss true freshman John Rhys Plumlee has gained 989 yards on the ground, which ranks No. 3 among quarterbacks nationally.
“You’ve just got to put your big boy pads on,” said MSU defensive end Chauncey Rivers. “We know what kind of game this is going to be. They want to run the ball and run their quarterback so at the end of the day, we’ve got to go out there and stop them and that’s going to be a big task.”
State has a pretty solid rushing attack of its own led by junior tailback Kylin Hill, who tops all rushers in the SEC with 1,215 yards this year. Hill has eclipsed the century mark in seven games this season and enters tonight 176 shy of the school’s single-season record.
“I’ve already told the younger guys that this week is one of the weeks you can’t play around with,” Hill said. “This is basically the Super Bowl for us, the national championship for us. It’s a big rivalry. You’ve got to take this one seriously.”
Hill rushed for 108 yards and one touchdown in last year’s Egg Bowl for a Bulldogs’ offense that generated 420 yards, 309 of which came on the ground.
Mississippi State’s defense also kept the Rebels out of the end zone last year and receives a boost this week having defensive tackle Lee Autry, linebacker Willie Gay Jr. and safety Marcus Murphy back from suspensions.
“I feel like that will be a great asset for us,” said MSU linebacker Erroll Thompson. “Getting those guys back will be great but we’ve still got to play disciplined football.”
The Bulldogs will also get All-American cornerback Cameron Dantzler back in the secondary as well after missing last week’s game due to injury.