How Mike Leach and Lane Kiffin are influencing the new era of the Egg Bowl rivalry


A few months later Mississippi State hired Jackie Sherrill as a trainer in 1991, thenBe miss Coach Billy Brewer welcomed him into the Egg Bowl rivalry by calling him a “habitual liar”.

The insult stemmed from what Brewer believed to be inappropriate recruiting tactics used by the Bulldogs. He alleged Sherrill contacted a former Ole Miss quarterback who transferred to Texas A&M and asked for his help in trying to keep a black recruit from the rebels. The SEC berated Brewer for his remarks.

“I haven’t spoken with Reverend Sherrill,” Brewer told the SEC Media Days that year. “I don’t think he has my phone number, and I sure don’t have his.

The Egg Bowl does not have the pageantry of ArmyMarine, the stakes of the national title of the Iron Bowl, or the regional importance of “The Game” played between Michigan and Ohio state. In fact, there was only one occasion – in 1941 – where the Egg Bowl was played when the Bulldogs and Rebels still had a shot at winning the SEC.

Perhaps that’s why in 1991, after the Bulldogs beat the Rebels 24-9 in Sherrill’s first season, Sports Illustrated called the Egg Bowl “perhaps the saddest rivalry in all of the world. Division I, a struggle for pride in a state where pride is difficult, then sinks too deep and stays too long. “

For almost everyone outside of Mississippi, this is simply the only college football game to watch on Thanksgiving night (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN and ESPN App). But for people living in Magnolia State, it’s still the only game that matters. And for a long time, the rivalry was as much about tearing the other side apart as it was about winning.

Steve Robertson, an author and sports reporter who has covered the Bulldogs since 2001, told ESPN in 2017, “These are the two runt-off puppies of SEC West fighting for the posterior nipple. When you’re finally locked on that nipple posterior, you do whatever you want. do to stay there even if the other guy has to starve. “

Make no mistake: the animosity between schools runs deep and has often seeped from above. Sherrill, during his 13 seasons as MSU coach from 1991 to 2003, refused to call his team’s biggest rival by his preferred name. Former Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen simply called it “The School of the North.” Before Mullen’s first Egg Bowl game in 2009, his players stepped on Rebels jerseys taped to the locker room floors.

CR “Dudy” Noble, the namesake of Mississippi State Baseball Field, played four sports for the Bulldogs and then coached at Ole Miss from 1917 to 1919. He once told a reporter, “I already know what hell looks like. trained at Ole Miss. “

“When you’re in Mississippi State,” former Bulldogs coach Sylvester Croom told Sports Illustrated in 2018, “you learn to hate Ole Miss.”

Not anymore.

With two underdogs guiding Ole Miss and Mississippi State in Thursday night’s game at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Mississippi, the Egg Bowl appears to have a lot less vitriol than usual. Just like the Middle East needed Jimmy Carter and Drake and Kanye needed J. Prince, Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach apparently arrived at the right time for the Egg Bowl.

“Someone said the other day [that] we don’t make sense to be here, “Kiffin said this week.” We get along fine. Maybe we’ve been brought here to assemble a state. It’s football. You really shouldn’t hate people just because they went to a certain school. “

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With the Egg Bowl coming up, Lane Kiffin of # 12 Miss Ole discusses Mike Leach’s continued success of # 25 MS State with a pretty “simple” game plan.

The circumstances that led to Kiffin and Leach’s training in Mississippi could only have happened in a rivalry as unpredictable as the Egg Bowl. In the 2019 edition, in a series of breathtaking events that fans across the state still remember as “Piss and Miss,” Rebel wide receiver Elijah Moore caught a two-yard touchdown with four seconds. to play. After scoring, he fell on all fours in the end zone, lifted his leg and pretended to urinate like a dog. After a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, the Rebels missed a 35-yard extra point attempt and the Bulldogs won the game, 21-20.

Three days later, Ole Miss fired coach Matt Luke and Kiffin was hired by Florida Atlantic. The Bulldogs fired coach Joe Moorhead after losing to Louisville at the Music City Bowl about a month later and drew Leach away from Washington state.

Since arriving in the state, Kiffin and Leach have exchanged more compliments than blows. When the Rebels hosted ESPN’s College GameDay in their famous Grove on November 13, Kiffin was the guest coach. When Kiffin was asked to choose between the state of Mississippi and Auburn, he said, “Mike Leach is the best offensive coach in America. I take the state of Mississippi.” His response drew boos from the home crowd.

Leach, who coached against Kiffin’s teams while he was at USC in 2012-13, would not take the bait.

“It sets the stage for a really good Egg Bowl,” Leach said at the time. “I’d be lying if I told you that he doesn’t think he’s the best offensive coordinator. It was modest of him to say… We’re just going to let the love keep coming. [in] both directions. “

In fact, both offenses were very good. The rebels, led by the candidate for the Heisman trophy Matt Corral, are averaging 36.4 points and lead the SEC in rushing (230.6 yards) and total offense (517.5 yards). The Bulldogs are averaging 31.8 points and lead the league in passing (390.4 yards). MSU in second year Will rogers leads the league with 374.1 yards per game, while completing 76.1% of his attempts with 34 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

In his 20th season as a head coach, Leach’s version of the air raid offense is alive and well. The Bulldogs attempted 593 passes, 51 more than any other FBS team.

“It’s really amazing. It goes against what you might think,” Kiffin said. “I think a lot of people, including the coaches, thought the SEC got it last year and that it slowed them down for parts of the year. Obviously it didn’t. because now they’re ‘back to where they started.’

Kiffin said it was the same attack Leach was running when the coaches competed on the West Coast.

“Usually when you don’t evolve you don’t follow the game,” Kiffin said. “You get kicked out. You get overwhelmed. That’s why people don’t band together and run training I football anymore. But somehow he found something a long time ago. which continues to operate. “

With a win at the Egg Bowl, Ole Miss can win 10 regular season games for the first time in school history and still look for a New Years Six Bowl game. Mississippi State has won four of its last five games, is bowling eligible and would want nothing more than to spoil its rival’s playoff plans. The Rebels held off the Bulldogs in a 31-24 win last season.

“I have been waiting this week for the number of days I have spent since I launched a Hail Mary [on] the last game of the game last year, ”Rogers told reporters on Monday. “I was expecting this.

The same goes for everyone in the state, even though their coaches are friendlier than those in the past.

“I think they really love each other,” said Rick Cleveland, columnist for Mississippi Today, who has covered college football in the state for more than four decades. “I don’t think that’s going to do anything to the rivalry as a whole. I don’t think Ole Miss and Mississippi State fans are suddenly going to start playing well. I think the hate will far outlast to Kiffin and Leach’s stays in Mississippi. “



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