Four Down Territory: Rivalry fights abound; SEC scolds Mississippi State and and Ole Miss

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, November 27, 2018

You’re in Four Down Territory. Each week we’ll spotlight four notes, nuggets, stats or trends from the weekend that was in Mississippi high school football, college football, and the NFL.

The 2018 Egg Bowl was a rather mundane blowout, with Mississippi State on its way to a 35-3 victory over Ole Miss on Thanksgiving night.

Then A.J. Brown and Johnathan Abram fought for the ball at the end of a long touchdown pass and things got interesting.

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Brown and Abram’s fight for the ball sparked an actual fight on the field. Several skirmishes broke out among other players — Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral got his helmet ripped off during one of them — benches cleared, four players were ejected, and every player on both teams got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

On Monday, the Southeastern Conference said two of the three players who were ejected, Mississippi State’s Cameron Dantzler and Ole Miss’ C.J. Moore, were improperly identified and should not have been ejected.

Mississippi State’s Jamal Peters and Willie Gay, Jr., were also ejected. Gay was ejected for receiving his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty of the game.

Meanwhile, three players who were allowed to remain in the game — Brown, Corral and Abram and — should have been ejected.

None of the players involved will be suspended for future games, the SEC announced.

“It remains disappointing to have seen the unnecessary actions during and after the Mississippi State at Ole Miss game on Thursday night. These actions are unacceptable and my concern relates to the bigger issue of the repeated incidents before, during and after games between these football programs,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. “These incidents have become too common in this series. I will require both athletics directors to meet with me at the SEC Office in the offseason to review past issues and develop a plan for the purpose of creating a healthier environment for this annual game.”

The anger boiled over to the postgame celebration as an Ole Miss athletic department official and a couple of players tried to prevent Mississippi State players from planting a flag at midfield, causing another shouting match and minor skirmish.

“I think the emotion of the night was what it was. We coach our kids to do the right thing and play with poise, play with confidence, play with class,” Mississippi State head coach Moorhead said in his postgame press conference. “But at the same time we’re not going to take anyone’s (expletive) either.”

A lot of teams around the country apparently felt the same way.

North Carolina and North Carolina State got into a brawl in the end zone after Reggie Gallaspy II scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime on Saturday to give N.C. State a 34-28 victory.
Afterward, North Carolina coach Larry Fedora denied that there was a fight despite plenty of video evidence to the contrary.

“There was no fight,” Fedora, the former Southern Miss coach said in his postgame press conference. “Not to my knowledge. Their team was celebrating and our team was celebrating.”

A moment later, when asked what the Tar Heels were celebrating after losing, Fedora angrily changed course.

“My team wasn’t celebrating,” he snapped. “Their team was celebrating in our end zone. That’s what was happening. But there weren’t any fights to my knowledge.”

Fedora was fired as North Carolina’s coach on Sunday.

On Saturday night, LSU and Texas A&M played a seven-overtime instant classic that Texas A&M won 74-72.

Afterward, LSU football legend Kevin Faulk — now the program’s director of player development — and a Texas A&M staffer identified as Cole Fisher exchanged punches on the field. Cole Fisher is the nephew of Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher.

The Baton Rouge Advocate reported that LSU analyst Steve Kragthorpe, who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease and has a pacemaker in his chest, was also punched on the field after the game. After Cole Fisher punched Kragthorpe in the chest, Faulk went after him.

“It’s unfortunate this situation happened,” Faulk told the Lafayette (La.) Advertiser on Sunday. “It got out of hand. But I was just behaving as my mom and dad raised me. This guy hit Coach Kragthorpe in the chest. I just stepped in. It just happened.”

Kragthorpe was not seriously injured, but told the Advertiser that he planned to see a doctor on Monday.

The SEC fined Texas A&M $50,000 on Monday because its fans rushed the field after the game. The league office said it is also investigating the postgame incident.

LSU and Texas A&M set a host of NCAA, SEC and school records in their game:

• It was the highest-scoring game in Football Bowl Subdivision history. The 146 total points broke the old mark of 137 by Pittsburgh and Syracuse in 2016. West Texas A&M and Abilene Christian hold the all-divisions mark of 161, set in a 93-68 victory by Abilene Christian in 2008.

• LSU’s 72 points were the most ever scored by a losing team. Texas A&M’s 74 were the most ever scored against a team ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, as well as the most ever scored by any opponent against LSU.

• The Tigers and Aggies combined for more points than in either of their two men’s basketball games against each other last season.

• The seven overtimes tied the NCAA record.

• LSU quarterback Joe Burrow set a school record for most total touchdowns in a game. Burrow ran for three TDs and threw for three more. He also ran 29 times for 100 yards, the most rushing attempts by an LSU quarterback since Steve Van Buren carried it a school-record 43 times against the LSU Army Specialists in 1943.

The LSU-Texas A&M game was not only the highest-scoring game in college football this season, it was a rare shootout in the Southeastern Conference.
SEC teams played in only 11 games this season in which both teams scored at least 30 points. That’s the fewest among all Power 5 conferences.

The Big 12 and Big 10 had the most shootouts, with 17 each. The Atlantic Coast Conference had 16 and the Pac-12 had 13.

The SEC and Big 12 also cemented their reputations for defense and offense, respectively, with their total number of “super shootouts” in which both teams scored at least 40 points in regulation.
The SEC only had two super shootouts, both involving Ole Miss. The Rebels beat Southern Illinois 76-41 on Sept. 8, and lost 48-44 to South Carolina on Nov. 3.

The Big 12 had the most super shootouts of any Power 5 conference with nine. The ACC was next with three, the Pac-12 had two and the Big Ten only one.

In the MHSAA Class 6A playoffs, Madison Central continued a remarkable streak of both success and futility.

The Jaguars lost 16-7 to Horn Lake in the Class 6A North State championship game, marking the fourth year in a row that they have lost in the state semifinals. They have reached the penultimate round of the playoffs eight times in the last 11 years — more than any other team in Class 6A — without once winning.

Madison’s only trip to the state championship game came in 1999, when it beat Provine for the Class 5A title.

Horn Lake will play Oak Grove for the Class 6A title Friday at 7 p.m. at Southern Miss’ M.M. Roberts Stadium.

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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