STARKVILLE, Miss. — Ole Miss has a lot to be thankful for.
The No. 8 Rebels beat rival Mississippi State 31-21 in the 118th matchup in the Egg Bowl rivalry Thursday night. The win secured Ole Miss (10-2, 6-2 SEC) its first 10-win regular season in school history in just its second season under coach Lane Kiffin and set up the Rebels to almost certainly play in a New Year’s Six bowl game.
Here are three things we learned about Ole Miss from the Egg Bowl:
Surviving a second half: Second halves have been all about surviving for Ole Miss this month. Liberty, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt all dominated the third quarter against the Rebels. So when Mississippi State got the ball to start the third trailing 10-6, it felt like that drive could determine the feel of the rest of the game.
Then the Ole Miss defense forced a punt in less than two minutes. Then the offense went 82 yards on seven plays in 2:35 to score its first third-quarter touchdown in five games. Less than five minutes into the quarter, the Rebels forced their first punt of the evening and ran their smoothest drive yet to give themselves a two-possession lead.
From there, it was all survival mode. Longer-than-normal drives. Third down conversions. Withstanding a back-breaking interception that set up a Mississippi State touchdown. Recovering two onside kicks. The Rebels put themselves in position to win and held on.
Erasing the road narrative: Ole Miss didn’t look good in three true road games before Thursday. Losses at Alabama and Auburn and a near-loss at Tennessee didn’t set the Rebels up too well to thrive among the cowbells and rain at Davis Wade Stadium.
The road atmosphere seemed to affect the Rebels early. A failed fourth-down conversion on the opening drive was followed by pre-snap penalties and difficulty communicating calls and snap counts.
But the best way…