After three years, the Egg Bowl Trophy is no longer in Starkville.
Though, as Johnthan Banks said just outside the locker room on Saturday night, it’s not a rivalry if you win every game.
The downside to the big reward of winning three-straight Egg Bowls is the exponentially higher risk of how awful it feels for the Bulldogs and their fans when they inevitably have to send the trophy back.
The more you gain, the more you have to lose. In finances, you can be smart with your money and save it all.
But in football, there is no sure thing. No high-interest savings accounts, no re-financing and no bailouts.
Every year in the Battle for the Golden Egg, you put all your money on the table. For guys like Banks, it was his life savings as a Bulldog. And no matter how much you gain, you know, eventually, it will all be taken away. The more you have, the more it hurts on the day you finally lose it.
On Saturday, in Oxford, no less, it hurt bad for Mississippi State. It hurt For Dan Mullen, who had never lost to “That School Up North.” It hurt for the players who believed, for the administration who powered the charge for their state and for the fans who invested time, emotions and, for many, a significant amount of actual, real money.
Now, the wealth of the rivalry resides with those in red and blue. But just as it did for those who bled Maroon and White, the rivalry riches will grow, and whether it’s 365 days or another three years, the joy and jubilant triumphance of victory will betray them, just as it did the Bulldogs on Saturday.
Such is the burden of rivalry. But that joy of victory, and the savory days, weeks, months and sometimes years afterwards, make it worth it.
Without defeat, there is no victory. Without pain, there is no joy.
For at least the next 360-plus days, Ole Miss will enjoy the bragging rights, the victory and the pleasure of seeing the Egg Bowl Trophy reside in their home each day. Mississippi State will run, sweat and train to do whatever it takes to flush the sorrow from their hearts and re-capture the elation they first had when Mullen raised the trophy over his head on a cold November day back in 2009.
But they’ll have to wait a year. And until then, let’s, if you can stomach it, take a look at some of the Xs and Os and high and lows from the 60 minutes of play in the most recent Egg Bowl.
- Defensively, as a generality, MSU has some pretty big problems. For the third time in 2012, the Bulldogs gave up over 500 yards of total offense. Both Mullen and defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said changes have to be made, and each plans to “evaluate” the deficiencies in the offseason, and starting now as MSU prepares for a bowl game.
- MSU was unable to get much pressure on Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace, and still gave up some huge plays in the passing game, plays which Mullen and Wilson both bemoaned. Particularly, Rebel receiver Donte Moncrief gave MSU some issues, twice scoring a touchdown when he found himself covered by a safety, rather than Banks or another corner.
- The upside for the defense: senior linebacker Cam Lawrence had another stellar game, doubling his career interception total by roping in two picks. You’d have a tough time convincing me anyone on MSU’s defense has played harder or better over the course of the season than Lawrence. Any post-season accolades he earns are well-deserved.
- After the game, sophomore receiver Jameon Lewis told reporters something I very much agree with: had MSU been able to capitalize on Ole Miss mistakes in the first half, the outcome would have been very different.
- Off three Ole Miss turnovers, MSU’s offense had a missed field goal, a punt and a drive ended by an interception deep in Ole Miss territory. When UM punter Jim Broadway shanked a punt and gave MSU the ball just 40 yards away from pay dirt, the drive stalled and ended in a turnover on downs after a failed fourth-down conversion attempt. Give MSU just a field goal on each of those failed offensive possessions and the Bulldogs would’ve led at halftime by a score of 26-17. Give them two touchdowns and a field goal, and State would’ve hit the locker room at the break with a 34-17 advantage and a significantly different mental and emotional state. Very hypothetical, of course, but what a difference it would have made if MSU just could’ve capitalized on Rebel errors.
- There were, however, some bright spots, including Lewis’ 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the longest play in Egg Bowl history that could be found in the press box. We knew he had an electric side to him, and it’s important to see young players do well over the final stretch of the season, as we wrote about last week.
- Chad Bumphis had yet another monster game, putting a 146-yard and two-touchdown cap on his best regular season as a Bulldog, and he’s still got a bowl game left.
- The first of Bumphis’ touchdowns was a tremendous play, with Tyler Russell running around in the backfield, right tackle Charles Siddoway knocking over three Ole Miss defenders with one block to give Russell the extra time he needed to fling the ball 42 yards straight ahead down the right sideline and into the arms of a backpedaling Bumphis, who turned right into the endzone for six points.
- His second scoring play was less meaningful, the last touchdown of the game, but MSU still has to be happy to see freshman quarterback Dak Prescott finish a scoring drive, MSU marching 75 yards down the field in just over three minutes.
- The rest of the offense, however, was not great. There was no rhythm, the running game never got going and the blocking was, honestly, pretty awful for long stretches. Russell was hit all night, which has been a theme the last several weeks, and for much of the season, really.
- Whether it’s play-calling, blocking or just personnel, MSU’s offense has had some glaring problems it needs to resolve.
- But, here’s the good news: MSU improved on its regular-season win total from last by two games, it won four SEC games and the Bulldogs are headed to their third-straight bowl game, no small feat after nearly a decade with just one post-season appearance. The loss to Ole Miss is tough, and the range of emotions from the beatdown of Arkansas to suffering defeat in Oxford just seven days later is a roller coaster more extreme than even the most daring thrill-seekers would think twice about. Most of thejoy was concentrated in the first half of the season, while the stinging of loss came heavy in the second half. But, when ignoring the timeline and looking at the season as a whole, there is plenty for MSU to both be happy about and build on. 2012, however you slice it, is a success.