Bulldogs relish Egg Bowl victory

Published 11:43 am Monday, November 28, 2011

STARKVILLE — The maroon uniforms were decked with gold numerals. They had gold-colored shoes on their feet. For the Mississippi State Bulldogs, it was all about the Golden Egg.

For the third straight year, the Egg will reside in Starkville after Mississippi State throttled archrival Ole Miss 31-3 on Saturday night at Davis-Wade Stadium.

Former Vicksburg High player Marvin Bure was one of 17 Bulldog seniors who claimed the longest winning streak in the series for State since 1939-43. To them, it was all a matter of buying into coach Dan Mullen’s belief that the regular-season finale is a championship. The trophy matters.

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“Oh man, the seniors know what this means,” Bure said after the Bulldogs (6-6, 2-6 Southeastern Conference) finished off the Rebels (2-10, 0-8) and became bowl eligible in the process. “A lot of us remember the 45-0 loss when we were freshmen. Now, we’ve won it three straight times. We never want to give it up.”

Mullen reinforced that position as he admired the trophy at his postgame press conference.

“Three straight Egg Bowl championships is something special,” Mullen said. “I’m really proud of how, since we got here, how everybody has bought into what we’re trying to do. It’s great for our seniors to go out that way. It’s great for our young guys. I’m proud of the direction that the program is going.”

That direction is to a second straight bowl game. Mississippi State is likely headed to either the Music City Bowl in Nashville or the Liberty Bowl in Memphis.

Southern Miss (10-2), which plays sixth-ranked Houston (12-0) on Saturday for the Conference USA championship, is locked into the Liberty Bowl. The C-USA champion earns an automatic bid to the Liberty Bowl, but if Houston wins it will qualify for a spot in a Bowl Championship Series game — and Southern Miss, the league’s runner-up, would then get the Liberty Bowl spot.

A better bowl date would have been in the cards for Mississippi State had it made plays in three critical losses, Bure said.

“Auburn, South Carolina and Georgia,” Bure said of the games that got away. “If we make one or two plays we beat Auburn and South Carolina. At Georgia, we could have won that one had we not given away field position in the first half.”

The Bulldogs made plays against the Rebels and Bure had some as well. He made two special teams tackles, including a running bowl over of Ole Miss’ Philander Allen that resulted in a four-yard loss and pinned the Rebels at their own 7-yard line with 8:36 to go.

“No. 2 (Allen) never calls for a fair catch, so I went straight ahead,” Bure said with a laugh.

Much like Bure’s tackle, State’s defense was stout all night. They stuffed a fourth-down play midway through the first quarter to nullify the lone mistake quarterback Chris Relf made, an interception by Ole Miss’ Cody Prewitt.

Through three quarters, Ole Miss had gained just 122 yards. Quarterback Barry Brunetti had only 40 passing yards to that point and the Rebels’ biggest threat, wide receiver Nick Brassell, did not have a catch.

The Bulldog offense did most of its damage on the ground with 247 yards. Running back Vick Ballard had 144 yards and one touchdown along with an 18-yard TD catch, while LaDarius Perkins added one score on the ground and another through the air.

Ballard felt he was going to have a good night.

“This was the best I’ve ran since Auburn,” Ballard said. “The offensive line did a great job. It means a lot to win three straight Egg Bowls and now Mississippi State gets to go to a second consecutive bowl game.”