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November 29, 2013

Now That It''s Over: Egg Bowl Edition

It was one of those Egg Bowl nights. The bitter cold chill in the air, the intensity of the crowd and two teams with lots of young talent made for the perfect setup for an Egg Bowl-moment. It felt all game as if there would be something happen in this ball game that set up another moment like everyone witnessed in 1999. That moment happened in so many ways when the fourth quarter started. Dak Prescott entered the game after being ruled out until a bowl game and went down in Egg Bowl lore as a hero to Mississippi State fans as he scored the winning touchdown in overtime.

Another player went into Egg Bowl lore as Nickoe Whitley continued to show his knack for the ball as he saved a touchdown by knocking the ball out of Bo Wallace's hands at the goal line to seal victory, Egg Bowl revenge and a fourth-straight bowl game.

Now let's get to my three keys to victory and see how the Bulldogs fared. My keys were: Control the Tempo, Finish in the Redzone, Pressure Wallace.

Control the Tempo: It was no surprise that the Bulldogs were probably going to win the time of possession because of the way both offenses like to run. State won that stat with 32:48 minutes of time off the clock which around their average. What was big for the Bulldogs was making up for the way they didn't manage things at the end of the first half.

In the second half, a quick three and out on the Rebels after the Mississippi State field goal late in the fourth set things up perfectly for MSU to win the ball game in regulation. Though they missed the field goal, it still worked in their favor and they proved that the up-tempo offenses can be a major hindrance if chains aren't moving. State finished the regular season second in the SEC in time of possession and controlled the tempo of most games this year.

Finish in the Redzone : The Achilles heel of both of these teams all season has been the redzone and it has probably cost MSU a couple of games this season when they haven't cashed in on points inside the 20. Last night, they did just that scoring both times they were in the redzone with both being touchdowns. On the flip side, they forced Ole Miss' biggest blunders inside the 20 hitting a double whammy in this category.

The Rebels were just 1-3 inside the redzone scoring their only offensive points of the night on a field goal in the first drive of the second half. The MSU defense deserves most of the credit on the night for plays like they made inside the redzone and all over the field.

Pressure Wallace and Keep Outside Lanes Clogged: I thought coming into the game the difference in a Mississippi State win was on quarterback play on both sides but mostly on Wallace. After a record-breaking Egg Bowl a year ago from the junior, the Bulldogs knew that they had to get something going against him. Needless to say, they got in his head and in the backfield as they were all over the field making plays against him. Wallace threw three interceptions in the game and one that wasn't called an interception and should have been. The thing about the interceptions is they weren't even close to being plays by the receivers, they were mostly overthrown or underthrown.

Most of those plays were dictated by freshman Chris Jones who had another huge performance with five tackles, two for loss and a quarterback sack while also pressuring Wallace and forcing bad throws. I felt that Wallace would probably cave in under pressure as he hasn't exactly been clutch in big games consistently. He folded at just the right time for Bulldog fans as he was racing to the endzone to tie things up and take it to a second overtime. That's when the senior leader at safety stepped in. Nickoe Whitely has been bashed by many for his play in the last two years, but last night the senior knocked the ball out at the right time on Wallace.

My prediction was 27-21. The Bulldogs held their own in their own house and got the win that they had to have. Mullen now boasts a 4-1 record against his rival and has posted four-straight bowl games for the first time in school history. MSU now prepares for their selection to a bowl that will come up in two weeks.


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