How Mike Leach and Lane Kiffin are influencing the new era of the Egg Bowl rivalry

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

The insult stemmed from what Brewer believed had been improper recruiting techniques being employed by the Bulldogs. He alleged that Sherrill had contacted a former Ole Miss quarterback who had transferred to Texas A&M and enlisted his assist in making an attempt to sway a Black recruit away from the Rebels. The SEC reprimanded Brewer for his remarks.

“I have not spoken with the Reverend Sherrill,” Brewer stated at SEC Media Days that yr. “I do not assume he has my telephone quantity, and I rattling certain do not have his.”

The Egg Bowl does not have the pageantry of Military-Navy, the nationwide title stakes of the Iron Bowl, or the regional significance of “The Sport” performed between Michigan and Ohio State. The truth is, there was just one event — in 1941 — when the Egg Bowl was performed whereas the Bulldogs and Rebels each nonetheless had an opportunity to win the SEC.

Possibly that is why in 1991, after the Bulldogs defeated the Rebels 24-9 in Sherrill’s first season, Sports activities Illustrated known as the Egg Bowl “maybe the saddest rivalry in all of Division I, a wrestle for satisfaction in a state the place satisfaction comes laborious, then runs too deep and stays too lengthy.”

For many everybody exterior of Mississippi, it is merely the one faculty soccer recreation to observe on Thanksgiving evening (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN and ESPN App). However for these individuals residing within the Magnolia State, it is nonetheless the one recreation that issues. And for a very long time, the rivalry was as a lot about tearing the opposite facet down as profitable.

Steve Robertson, an writer and sportswriter who has lined the Bulldogs since 2001, informed ESPN in 2017, “It is the 2 runt puppies within the SEC West preventing for the hind teat. While you lastly get locked on that hind teat, you do no matter it’s a must to do to remain there, even when the opposite man has to starve.”

Make no mistake: The animosity between the colleges runs deep and has usually percolated from the highest. Sherrill, throughout his 13 seasons as MSU’s coach from 1991 to 2003, refused to name his staff’s largest rival by its most popular identify. Former Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen merely referred to it as “The College Up North.” Earlier than Mullen’s first Egg Bowl recreation in 2009, his gamers walked over Rebels jerseys taped to the locker room ground.

C.R. “Dudy” Noble, the namesake of Mississippi State’s baseball discipline, performed 4 sports activities for the Bulldogs after which coached at Ole Miss from 1917 to 1919. He as soon as famously informed a newspaper reporter: “I already know what hell is like. I as soon as coached at Ole Miss.”

“While you’re at Mississippi State,” former Bulldogs coach Sylvester Croom informed Sports activities Illustrated in 2018, “you be taught to hate Ole Miss.”

Not anymore.

With two outsiders guiding Ole Miss and Mississippi State into Thursday evening’s recreation at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Mississippi, the Egg Bowl appears to have far much less vitriol than regular. Identical to the Center East wanted Jimmy Carter and Drake and Kanye wanted J. Prince, Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach apparently got here alongside on the proper time for the Egg Bowl.

“Somebody stated the opposite day [that] we sort of do not make sense to be right here,” Kiffin stated this week. “We get alongside. Possibly we had been introduced right here to convey a state collectively. It is soccer. You actually should not hate individuals simply because they went to a sure faculty.”



With the Egg Bowl forward, No. 12 Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin discusses No. 25 MS State’s Mike Leach’s sustained success with a reasonably “easy” recreation plan.

The circumstances that led to Kiffin and Leach teaching in Mississippi may have solely occurred in a rivalry as unpredictable because the Egg Bowl. Within the 2019 version, in a surprising collection of occasions which are nonetheless remembered by State followers as “Piss and Miss,” Rebels receiver Elijah Moore caught a two-yard landing with 4 seconds to play. After scoring, he dropped to all fours ultimately zone, lifted his leg and pretended to urinate like a canine. After a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, the Rebels missed a 35-yard further level try, and the Bulldogs gained the sport, 21-20.

Three days later, Ole Miss fired coach Matt Luke, and Kiffin was employed from Florida Atlantic. The Bulldogs fired coach Joe Moorhead after dropping to Louisville within the Music Metropolis Bowl a couple of month later and lured Leach away from Washington State.

Since arriving within the state, Kiffin and Leach have traded extra compliments than jabs. When the Rebels hosted ESPN’s School GameDay present of their well-known Grove on Nov. 13, Kiffin was the visitor picker. When Kiffin was requested to decide on between Mississippi State and Auburn, he stated, “Mike Leach is the most effective offensive coach in America. I am taking Mississippi State.” His reply drew boos from the house crowd.

Leach, who coached towards Kiffin’s groups whereas he was at USC in 2012-13, would not take the bait.

“He is setting the stage for a extremely good Egg Bowl,” Leach stated on the time. “I would be mendacity if I informed you he did not assume he is the most effective offensive coordinator. It was modest of him to say … We’ll simply let the love hold coming [in] each instructions.”

Really, each offenses have been superb. The Rebels, led by Heisman Trophy candidate Matt Corral, are averaging 36.4 factors and lead the SEC in dashing (230.6 yards) and whole offense (517.5 yards). The Bulldogs common 31.8 factors and lead the league in passing (390.4 yards). MSU sophomore Will Rogers leads the league with 374.1 yards per recreation, whereas finishing 76.1% of his makes an attempt with 34 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

In his twentieth season as a head coach, Leach’s model of the Air Raid offense is alive and effectively. The Bulldogs have tried 593 passes — 51 greater than every other FBS staff.

“It truly is wonderful. It goes towards what you’ll assume,” Kiffin stated. “I feel there was a thought on the market amongst lots of people, together with coaches, that the SEC had figured it out final yr and it slowed them down there all through components of the yr. Clearly that wasn’t the case as a result of now they’re proper again to the place they began.”

Kiffin stated it is the identical offense Leach was working when the coaches competed on the West Coast.

“Normally when you do not evolve you do not sustain with the sport,” Kiffin stated. “You get fired. You get handed by. That is why individuals aren’t huddling and working I-formation soccer for essentially the most half anymore. However someway he got here up with one thing a very long time in the past that simply retains working.”

With a victory within the Egg Bowl, Ole Miss can win 10 video games within the common season for the primary time at school historical past and keep within the hunt for a New Yr’s Six bowl recreation. Mississippi State has gained 4 of its final 5 video games, is bowl eligible and would really like nothing greater than to spoil its rival’s postseason plans. The Rebels held off the Bulldogs in a 31-24 victory final season.

“I’ve waited for this week for nevertheless many days it has been since I threw a Hail Mary [on] the final play of the sport final yr,” Rogers informed reporters Monday. “I have been ready for this.”

So has everybody else within the state, even when their coaches are on extra friendlier phrases than these of the previous.

“I do assume they genuinely like one another,” stated Mississippi At this time columnist Rick Cleveland, who has lined faculty soccer within the state for greater than 4 many years. “I do not assume it may do something to the rivalry general. I do not assume Ole Miss and Mississippi State followers are out of the blue going to begin taking part in good. I feel the hatred will far outlast Kiffin’s and Leach’s stays in Mississippi.”

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