McAllister’s magic sinks Bulldogs

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 24, 2000

OXFORD Neither Ole Miss nor Mississippi State seemed able to land a knockout punch in Thursday night’s Egg Bowl battle, until the Bulldogs with an assist from Mother Nature KOd themselves.

Ole Miss’ Deuce McAllister rushed for 121 yards and three touchdowns and threw for another to quarterback Romaro Miller, but it was a pair of late special teams miscues by Mississippi State deep inside their own territory that sealed a 45-30 Rebels win.

Miller also threw for two touchdowns to Grant Heard and set up another score with a 50-yard run to the State 1-yard line. Dontae Walker led MSU with 121 yards and three touchdowns, including a 73-yarder that gave State a 30-28 lead in the third quarter.

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“We weren’t going to be denied this year,” Heard said. “We remembered last year when they ran on the field and how we felt. We told ourselves that if we were going to lose, we would lose giving 100 percent. We were going to make it a game all the way to the end.”

For the Bulldogs, there were only feelings of what might have been. Playing in a steady rain with a banged-up team, Mississippi State roared to a 16-0 lead early in the second quarter, retook the lead after Ole Miss responded with 28 straight points, then lost the advantage on a trick play and fumbled twice inside the Rebel 10 in the final seven minutes.

Both fumbles were caused by wet balls. On the first, a snap bounced off the hands of punter Prentiss Cole, a former Hinds Community College standout, at the 7. The second was a muffed punt by Larry Huntington at the Bulldogs’ 9. Ole Miss scored 10 points off the two miscues to put the game away.

“We could never get the momentum for good. They would always fight back. Sixteen down and they fight back and score 21 unanswered points, and it’s hard to overcome that,” said MSU free safety Josh Morgan.

Morgan, a former Warren Central star, had four tackles. “Our boys played hard. We had a lot of injuries and they really fought through it and I’m proud of them for that. But Ole Miss, I guess they wanted it more.”

Wayne Madkin started at quarterback for State and hooked up with Terrell Grindle on a 39-yard TD pass on third-and-21 with 8:47 left in the first quarter for the game’s first score. But Madkin, who has been battling the flu all week, left the game after the TD pass. Redshirt freshman Kevin Fant replaced Madkin and led State on scoring drives on its next two possessions.

But just when State appeared to be on the brink of a rout, Ole Miss responded with a 14-play, 80-yard drive capped by Miller’s 8-yard TD pass to Heard. The Rebels scored the next 28 points to take a 28-16 lead.

Miller’s 50-yard scramble set up a 1-yard dive by McAllister to cut it to 16-14 with 2:02 left in the half, then an interception by Derrick Burgess on the next play from scrimmage set up Miller’s second TD pass to Heard, a 7-yarder with 24 seconds left, to give Ole Miss a 21-16 halftime lead.

“I was scared like all of our fans in the stands,” Miller said. “I felt like we were moving the ball, but we just weren’t making anything happen. I didn’t know if we were going to keep doing the same thing or if we were going to break out of it. Lucky for us, we broke out.”

McAllister then broke through the State defense on the first play of the second half for a 72-yard TD run to make it 28-16. McAllister was almost caught from behind inside the 5, but outran the last defender to the end zone.

State answered, however. An interception by Kendall Roberson at the Rebel 30 and a 27-yard run by Fant set up Walker’s second 1-yard TD run of the game. Walker then put the Bulldogs back in front, 30-28, with a 73-yard score with 9:13 to play in the third quarter.

After an exchange of punts, Ole Miss converted two third downs on a 9-play, 67-yard drive capped by McAllister’s 20-yard TD toss.

Then the Bulldogs’ mistakes began en masse.

A holding penalty wiped out a 53-yard TD pass from Fant to Dicenzo Miller early in the fourth quarter, and the drive resulted in a punt. After an Ole Miss punt, State was unable to move the ball and was forced to punt again, resulting in Cole’s bobbled snap. Ole Miss converted that mistake into a 1-yard McAllister touchdown run for a 42-30 lead.

State’s next drive stalled out near midfield.

The defense forced Ole Miss to punt with less than four minutes to go, but Huntington’s muff was recovered by Lanier Goethie and Ole Miss turned it into a 34-yard Les Binkley field goal for the final points.

The field goal also made the game the highest-scoring game in the series. The previous mark was a combined 72 points in 1985.

Ole Miss snapped a two-game Egg Bowl loisng streak.

“This is nice. This is my first time ever to beat Mississippi State,” senior defensive end Shane Elam said. “This is the best feeling I’ve had this season. I didn’t want to take my jersey off tonight if we didn’t win. It’s a really, really nice feeling.”