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Mississippi State Lideatrick Griffin stays on the ground in the endzone in disapointment after missing a catch my Will Rogers in the fourth quarter.

STARKVILLE – Matt Corral was flexing and shouting in Davis Wade Stadium’s south end zone as the Ole Miss faithful’s cheer filled the crisp Starkville air Thanksgiving night.

Behind Mississippi State’s bench and just below the press box, the sound of fans banging their cowbells against the bleachers echoed.

The Ole Miss celebration continued as its fire extinguisher on the bench blew into the swirling mist and ‘Hotty Toddy’ chants rose from the west side of the stadium.

On MSU’s bench, there were looks of confusion as to how a team that felt as though it was playing its best football could fall 31-21 to its arch-rival.

“This is gonna sting for 365 days,” State quarterback Will Rogers said.

The recipe was simple.

Mississippi State made one mistake after another and couldn’t find ways to overcome them. Ole Miss teased its errors but fended off any disaster.

Mississippi State closed out its first half by dropping three touchdown passes.

Meanwhile, Ole Miss was bobbling punts that it corralled anyway and marching down the field for touchdowns.

Mississippi State was picking up six offensive penalties and bringing back first downs. Ole Miss was picking up five and still finding ways to convert on second-and-22. 

MSU overcame deficits as large as 25 and 20 this season not by playing perfect, but instead by finding ways to play through its mistakes — mistakes Leach often felt were a result of youth and inexperience.

But staring their rival in the face, Mississippi State had no answer to building momentum.

A chance to score going into the half while getting the ball to start the second half instead resulted in a missed 30-yard kick and a punt.

A last-chance effort after a Jett Johnson interception led to a two-play, 12-yard touchdown drive. Ole Miss responded with a 6-play, 42-yard drive in fewer than two minutes.

“At some key times, their maturity came out ahead of some of our young guys,” Leach said.

The loss puts a sour end to a regular season filled with promise for a team in its second season with Leach at the helm.

Mississippi State averaged 10 more points per game this season than last.

Quarterback Will Rogers threw 35 touchdowns to just eight interceptions. Receiver Makai Polk broke the program’s single-season receptions record.

“We feel like we could’ve done a better job than we did,” Leach said. “We certainly think that we left a lot of meat on the bone as far as opportunities. But with that said, we steadily improved the entire year.”

But its shortcomings were apparent and reared their heads in poor situations.

Scott Lashley’s struggle at right tackle could be seen even in a blowout win against Vanderbilt. The kicking situation speaks for itself, as it led to Leach calling for open tryouts following a loss at Arkansas.

Lashley’s performance against Ole Miss can be shown through the two sacks Sam Williams had.

Brandon Ruiz was unavailable at kicker for the third-straight game. Nolan McCord continued his role as starter by missing another pair of kicks against Ole Miss.

“I imagine it’s a little of both (mental and physical struggles),” Leach said of McCord. “If you’re not right mentally, your form is not gonna be very good. If your form is good, then the ball doesn’t have any choice but to go through. The ball’s not gonna decide where it goes.”

Mississippi State has a valuable extra month of practice ahead for a young team preparing for a bowl game.

But the sight of your rival team celebrating on your field will leave a scar on an otherwise promising season.

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