Egg Bowl Preview

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) -- Mississippi State's motivation on
Saturday is clear -- win a third-straight Egg Bowl against rival Ole
Miss for the first time in 70 years and become bowl eligible in the
process.
As for the Rebels, it's hard to tell if they've got any
motivation remaining or are just playing the final game because the
schedule says so.
Mississippi State right tackle Addison Lawrence said he expects
Ole Miss to be pumped when the teams meet on Saturday night at
Davis Wade Stadium, but also susceptible to a mental breakdown if
things don't go their way early.
"If we jump on them I think they'll lay down," Lawrence said.
"I think they're wanting to lay down in a way because of all the
things that have been happening here recently. But they're
definitely going to come out excited, so we've got to match their
intensity."
It's hard to argue with Lawrence's assessment.
Ole Miss (2-9, 0-7 Southeastern Conference) has been lethargic
in two straight losses to Louisiana Tech and LSU, losing by a
combined score of 79-10. The Rebels have zero momentum, with six
straight losses overall and a 13-game SEC losing streak. They're
playing for a coach (Houston Nutt) who's already been told he won't
return next season. Starting quarterback Randall Mackey and leading
rusher Jeff Scott have been suspended for violating team rules.
But then again, it's the Egg Bowl, and strange things have
happened before.
"They're going to be gunning for us as much as ever," Lawrence
said.
Though Mississippi State (5-6, 1-6) is the heavy favorite, the
Bulldogs haven't exactly been tearing up their schedule. They were
dominated by Arkansas in a 44-17 loss last weekend and managed only
211 total yards in the process. Mississippi State's usually
effective running game was held to just 84 yards and 2.6 yards per
carry.
Senior offensive lineman Quentin Saulsberry said film study was
rough, but the Egg Bowl provided a silver lining.
"The message was you have to get better as a player,"
Saulsberry said. "You have time to redeem yourself."
Mullen is 2-0 in the Egg Bowl so far and has brought an
off-the-field spice to the rivalry that sometimes borders on
obsession. He openly pokes fun at what he likes to call "The
school up north" whenever the opportunity arises, has a clock that
counts down the time until the Egg Bowl each season and openly
admits the outcome makes or breaks each season.
So far, the fanatical approach has been the right one. And
there's little doubt the Egg Bowl is extremely important for a
coach's job security.
One reason Nutt is done after Saturday's game is two straight
losses to the Bulldogs. It marks the third time in five years that
a coach has lost his job following the matchup. Ole Miss' Ed
Orgeron was fired after a loss in the 2007 Egg Bowl while
Mississippi State's Sylvester Croom was gone after losing the Egg
Bowl a year later.
Mullen stopped short of feeling sorry for Nutt's plight, but did
empathize with the Ole Miss assistant coaches who don't have a big
buyout and would be looking for jobs.
"Rivalry games certainly do have an impact on your tenure as a
coach and I think it's important to win those rivalry games and if
you start losing too many of those, people notice," Mullen said.
"No matter what you do the rest of the year, they remember this
game. That's what makes it so important to you as a coach."
The Ole Miss players and coaches insist they haven't given up
and were ready to give Mississippi State a fight. It's Nutt's last
chance to go out with some positive momentum and the Rebels are
also trying to avoid their first 10-loss season in program history.
"There are a lot of guys who are doing the right things and
going hard out there," Nutt said. "I can't say enough about
them."
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