Not even a bench-clearing brawl could have been more entertaining than the Egg Bowl finish.
You can’t make this stuff up.
With Mississippi State leading throughout but providing chance after chance for Ole Miss, the Rebels finally converted.
And not with whom you would have thought.
Matt Corral, the Rebels’ passing quarterback, the overlooked one, threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to sophomore slot receiver Elijah Moore with 4 seconds left to give Ole Miss the chance to tie or take the lead.
But Moore, replicating an act that did not cost the Rebels a win when DK Metcalf did the same thing here in 2017, lifted a leg – Bulldogs style – in mock urination in his end-zone celebration.
The ensuing unsportsmanlike penalty not only took a 2-point try officially off the table – Ole Miss coach Matt Luke had already decided to go for the tie and overtime – it put enormous pressure on struggling kicker Luke Logan. Logan, who had missed four of his last seven field goal attempts going back to Oct. 19, was asked to hit a 35-yard extra point with the game on the line.
He missed again. Game over. Bulldogs survive.
Corral, beaten out by running quarterback John Rhys Plumlee for the starting job, was unable to write a glorious chapter in Egg Bowl history before – in all likelihood – going into the transfer portal.
He entered with 7 minutes, 30 seconds left in the game and had completions of 12 and 38 yards before throwing an interception inside the MSU 10.
His 82-yard potential winning drive included a 57-yard pass to Braylon Sanders on fourth-and-24 from the Ole Miss 14.
When Ole Miss won here in 2017, the game that promoted Matt Luke from interim to permanent coach, the Rebels scored four touchdowns from outside the red zone.
That was their M.O. in scoring 37 points against No. 1 LSU a week and a half ago. Plumlee rushed for 212 yards and four touchdowns then.
But the Bulldogs shadowed Plumlee and denied him those big plays.
Even in what was Plumlee’s best passing game, Luke felt that he needed Corral, and Corral nearly delivered Egg Bowl magic for the Rebels.
With warnings after last season’s fight from SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, a modified trophy celebration policy and game officials patrolling the 50-yard line during pre-game warm-ups, the game did not have a fight.
It did have the emotions for which the rivalry is known, some chest-bumping, stare-downs and ultimately a selfish act by Moore who for all intents and purposes cost his team a chance to win.
Luke defended Moore, saying he got caught up in the moment, but really, there’s no defense.
This is 2019. That kind of self-expression doesn’t go unnoticed or unpunished.
In a night when three turnovers plagued the Rebels’, Moore’s antics proved to be the biggest giveaway of all.