If Kiffin had planned to take a final bow Thursday night at Vaught-Hemingway, the Bulldogs wrecked the party like an unwelcome wedding guest who guzzles all the whiskey at the open bar.
Mississippi State’s defense became the star. The Bulldogs (8-4, 4-4 SEC) delivered a flurry of red-zone stops. Needing one final stop, Bulldogs senior Randy Charlton deflected a shovel pass on a two-point play that Ole Miss needed to tie the game late in the fourth quarter.
The Lane Train began to jump the rails after a WCBI-TV report on Monday that Kiffin planned to accept the Auburn job after the Egg Bowl. Kiffin responded with a series of tweets in which he mocked the journalist who reported the story.
And yet, Kiffin never said the words Ole Miss fans needed to hear – that he was signing a contract extension to remain the Rebels’ coach. Amid all of his tweets, he also never denied his interest in Auburn.
Kiffin, in an attempt to rally his team, reportedly met with his players on the eve of the Egg Bowl and told them he was leaning toward staying. I’m unconvinced. Auburn offers the temptation of a higher ceiling than Ole Miss, and Kiffin already has spurned one SEC program, so I’ll believe he’ll be the Rebels’ coach in 2023 only if Auburn announces someone else as its hire in the coming days.
That worked, for the most part, until he opted to go for fourth-and-1 in the third quarter, with Ole Miss clinging to a 16-14 lead. The Rebels ran a play-action pass, but no receivers ran routes.
Ole Miss’ defense deserved a better fate. Otis Reese intercepted a pass. Tavius Robinson and Troy Brown forced fumbles. The defensive line harassed Will Rogers. But a Rebels defense that recovered a week after getting gashed by Arkansas received no help from Ole Miss’ offense.
The narrative of MSU’s season hinged on this game. Leach couldn’t afford to lose this rivalry for a third straight season. Arnett’s defense made sure he didn’t.
The Bulldogs faced one of the nation’s toughest schedules, but they were armed with a veteran roster and a third-year starting quarterback. They raced to a 5-1 record to open the season, so going 7-5 and heading to a lackluster bowl would have felt like a squandered opportunity.
Coaches say those who win in November get remembered. Well, State went 3-1 in November, and, for the first time since 2019, it won the most important game on its schedule.
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source: Jackson Clarion Ledger