How Mike Leach and Lane Kiffin Affect the New Era of Egg Bowl Rivalry

Author: | Posted in Sports No comments

A few months after Mississippi State hired Jackie Sherrill as coach in 1991, then-Ole Miss coach Billy Brewer welcomed him to the Egg Bowl rivalry by calling him a “habitual liar.”

The insult stemmed from what Brewer believed were inappropriate recruitment tactics used by the Bulldogs. He claimed Sherrill had contacted a former Ole Miss quarterback who had moved to Texas A&M and enlisted his help in trying to sway a black recruit away from the Rebels. The SEC reprimanded Brewer for his remarks.

“I have not spoken to Pastor Sherrill,” Brewer told SEC Media Days that year. “I do not think he has my phone number and I do not fucking have his.”

The egg bowl does not have the Army Navy’s attention, the national title stakes in the Iron Bowl or the regional significance of “The Game” played between Michigan and Ohio State. In fact, there has only been one occasion – in 1941 – where the Egg Bowl was played, while the Bulldogs and Rebels both still had a chance of winning the SEC.

Perhaps that’s why, in 1991, after the Bulldogs defeated the Rebels 24-9 in Sherrill’s first season, the Sports Illustrated Egg Bowl called “perhaps the saddest rivalry in all of Division I, a battle for pride in a state where pride comes hard, then run too deep and stay too long. “

For pretty much everyone outside of Mississippi, it’s simply the only college football game to watch on Thanksgiving night (19:30 ET, ESPN and ESPN App). But for the people who live in Magnolia State, it’s still the only game that matters. And for a long time, rivalry was as much about tearing down the other side as it was about winning.

Steve Robertson, a writer and sports writer who has been covering the Bulldogs since 2001, told ESPN in 2017: “It’s the two dirty puppies in the SEC West who are fighting for the back teat. When you’re finally locked in that backseat, you do whatever you have. must do to stay there, even if the other guy has to starve. “

Make no mistake: The enmity between the schools runs deep and is often penetrated from the top. During his 13 seasons as MSU’s coach from 1991 to 2003, Sherrill refused to call his team’s biggest rival by its favorite name. Former Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen referred to it simply as “The School Up North.” Before Mullen’s first Egg Bowl match in 2009, his players walked over Rebel’s jerseys wallpaper to the locker room floor.

CR “Dudy” Noble, namesake of the Mississippi State baseball field, played four sports for the Bulldogs and then trained with Ole Miss from 1917 to 1919. He once famously told a newspaper reporter: “I already know what the hell it is. I once trained with Ole Miss. “

“When you’re in Mississippi State,” former Bulldogs coach Sylvester Croom told Sports Illustrated in 2018, “you learn to hate Ole Miss.”

Not anymore.

With two outsiders guiding Ole Miss and Mississippi State into Thursday night’s match at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Mississippi, the Egg Bowl appears to have far less vitriol than usual. Just as the Middle East needed Jimmy Carter and Drake and Kanye needed J. Prince, Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach apparently came along at the right time for the Egg Bowl.

“There was someone who said the other day [that] we kind of do not make sense to be here, “Kiffin said this week.” We’re coming together. Maybe we were brought here to bring a state together. It’s football. You really should not hate people just because they went to a certain school. “

Game

1:47

With the egg bowl in front, No. 12 Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin No. 25 MS States discusses Mike Leach’s enduring success with a rather “simple” game plan.

The circumstances that led to Kiffin and Leach coaching in Mississippi could only have taken place in a rivalry as unpredictable as the Egg Bowl. In the 2019 edition, in an astonishing array of events still remembered by State fans as “Piss and Miss,” Rebels receiver Elijah Moore captured a two-yard touchdown by four seconds to the game. After scoring, he fell to all fours in the goal zone, lifting his leg and pretending to pee like a dog. After a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, the Rebels missed a 35-yard extra point attempt and the Bulldogs won the game, 21-20.

Three days later, Ole Miss fired coach Matt Luke, and Kiffin was hired from Florida Atlantic. The Bulldogs fired coach Joe Moorhead after losing to Louisville in the Music City Bowl about a month later, luring Leach away from Washington State.

Since arriving in the state, Kiffin and Leach have exchanged more compliments than jabs. When the Rebels hosted ESPN’s College GameDay show in their famous Grove on November 13, Kiffin was the guest voter. When Kiffin was asked to choose between Mississippi State and Auburn, he said, “Mike Leach is the best offensive coach in America. I’m taking Mississippi State.” His response got buh from the home crowd.

Leach, who trained against Kiffin’s team while at USC in 2012-13, would not take the lure.

“He sets the stage for a really good egg dish,” Leach said at the time. “I would be lying if I told you he did not think he was the best offensive coordinator. It was modest of him to say … We’re just letting love keep coming [in] both directions.”

In fact, both offenses have been very good. The Rebels, led by Heisman Trophy candidate Matt Corral, average 36.4 points and lead the SEC in rushing (230.6 yards) and total offense (517.5 yards). The Bulldogs average 31.8 points and lead the league in passing (390.4 yards). MSU sophomore Will Rogers leads the league with 374.1 yards per game, while completing 76.1% of his attempts with 34 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

In his 20th season as head coach, Leach’s version of the Air Raid offense is alive and well. The Bulldogs have attempted 593 passes – 51 more than any other FBS team.

“It’s really amazing. It goes against what you would think,” Kiffin said. “I think there was a thought out there among a lot of people, including coaches, that the SEC had figured it out last year, and it slowed them out there through parts of the year. That, of course, was not the case, because now they were “is right back to where they started.”

Kiffin said it’s the same offense Leach was driving when coaches competed on the West Coast.

“Usually when you’re not evolving, you do not keep up with the game,” Kiffin said. “You get fired. You get passed over. That’s why people do not crowd together and play I-formation football for the most part anymore. But somehow he came up with something a long time ago that just keeps on going. function.”

With a victory in the Egg Bowl, Ole Miss can win 10 matches in the regular season for the first time in the school’s history and stay in the hunt for a New Year’s Six Bowl game. Mississippi State has won four of its last five games, is bowl qualified and wants nothing more than to spoil its rivals’ post-season plans. The Rebels held the Bulldogs in a 31-24 victory last season.

“I’ve been waiting this week for how many days it’s been since I threw a Hail Mary [on] the game’s last game last year, “Rogers told reporters Monday.” I’m been waiting for this. “

Everyone else in the state has it too, even though their coaches are on more friendly terms than before.

“I think they really like each other,” said Mississippi Today columnist Rick Cleveland, who has covered college football in the state for more than four decades. “I do not think it will do anything about the rivalry overall. I do not think Ole Miss and Mississippi State fans will suddenly start playing nicely. I think the hatred will last far longer Kiffins and Leach’s stay in Mississippi . “

.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *