Ole Miss smacks State on rainy Thanksgiving night
Nov. 24, 2000
IN THERE Ole Miss senior running back Deuce McAllister (22) dives past Mississippi State linebacker Mario Haggan (98) and other defenders late in the fourth quarter for a 1-yard touchdown that iced the Rebels' 45-30 win over the arch-rival Bulldogs. AP Photo
By Robbie Robertson/The Meridian Star
OXFORD For Ole Miss seniors Deuce McAllister and Romaro Miller, the season couldn't have ended any better.
For the Mississippi State Bulldogs, it couldn't have ended any worse.
Ole Miss used an opportunistic defense and a big-play offense to beat rival Mississippi State 45-30 in the highest-scoring Egg Bowl ever Thursday night before an announced crowd of 48,811 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Both teams end the season at 7-4 and will have to wait until after the SEC championship game to determine where they will be playing in the postseason.
While Ole Miss had its stars in McAllister and Miller, the Bulldogs were without many of theirs.
McAllister ran for 121 yards on 24 carries and had three scores while Miller was 10-0f-22 for 127 yard and two scores.
But those good things didn't happen early for the Rebels.
The Bulldogs struck first blood after doing exactly what they didn't do last week against Arkansas, make big plays.
After swapping punts in the first, the Bulldogs used a quick-strike offense to get moving. Dicenzo Miller started the drive with a 30-yard gainer into Ole Miss territory. After a holding call put the State offense in a third-and-21, Wayne Madkin hit Terrell Grindle on a deep post pattern and the Hattiesburg native raced 39 yards to paydirt at the 11:05 mark. Scott Westerfield's PAT was wide right as State led 6-0.
After another Ole Miss three-and-out, former East Mississippi Community College standout Larry Huntington put the Bulldogs in prime field position with a 26-yard punt return.
On the first play of the drive, redshirt freshman Kevin Fant subbing for a sick Madkin who had a 102-degree fever Wednesday and didn't practice hit Justin Griffith on a 31-yard pass play to put State at the Ole Miss 5. Three plays later, Dontae Walker bulled in from 2 yards out with 6:19 left in the first. Westerfield's PAT was good and State led 13-0.
The Bulldogs took a 16-0 lead early into the second quarter as Westerfield booted a 39-yard field goal that capped a 12-play, 59-yard drive with 13:00 left in the half.
The Rebels got back in the game with a balanced offensive attack as Romaro Miller and McAllister moved Ole Miss drive down the field. Miller got the Rebels in the end zone as he hit Grant Heard on an 8-yard slant pass over the middle with 7:22 left in the half. Les Binkley's PAT was good as Ole Miss cut the lead to 16-7.
After forcing the Bulldogs to punt, the Rebels put together another impressive drive, mainly due to a big run from Miller. After getting a crucial first down on third-and-10 with a completion to L. J. Taylor, Miller ripped off a 50-yard run as he scrambled through the Bulldog defense to the MSU 1. McAllister capped off the drive as he dove in from 1 yard out with 2:02 left in the half.
Then the Rebels got a break on the next drive when Fant dropped back to pass and the ball slipped out of his hands and into the waiting arms of senior defensive end Derrick Burgess at the MSU 23.
Ole Miss capitalized on the Bulldog miscue as Miller again found Heard on a quick slant across the middle, this one going for 7 yards and a score with 24 seconds left in the half. Binkley's PAT gave the Rebels a 21-16 halftime lead.
After receiving the second-half kickoff, McAllister brought the Ole Miss faithful to their feet as he ripped off an electrifying 72-yard run with 14:34 left in the third to make it 28-16.
On the ensuing possession, Miller made his first mistake of the night as he overthrew Taylor on a slant and Kendall Roberson picked off the pass with 11:59 left in the third.
Fant came up big for the Bulldogs on the ensuing possession on third-and-10 as he scrambled for 27 yards to the Rebel 1. Walker capped off the drive with his second score on a plunge over the top with 11:31 left in the third and Westerfield's PAT cut the Rebel lead to 28-23.
The seesaw battle continued after the Bulldog defense held and gave State the ball at the Ole Miss 21. Then Walker busted through the Ole Miss defense and rambled 73 yards to paydirt at the 7:36 mark in the third. Westerfield's PAT gave the Bulldogs a 30-28 lead.
The Rebels regained the lead with a combination of effective running and timely play calling. The Bulldogs helped the 9-play drive with a pass interference call. Then Cutcliffe caught the Bulldog defense napping as McAllister hit Miller on a 20-yard halfback pass with 44 seconds left in the third to cap off the 71-yard drive. Binkley's PAT gave the Rebels a 35-30 lead.
An inspired Rebel defense later got another big break when Neshoba Central product Prentiss Cole mishandled the snap on a punt attempt and was taken down at the Ole Miss 8.
Two plays later, McAllister went over the top with 6:53 left in the contest to give the Rebels a 42-30 lead.
The Rebels added a late field goal for the final margin.
Robbie Robertson is sports editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.