Behind Chad Kelly's 310 total yards and a big first half, the No. 18 Ole Miss Rebels defeated the No. 21 Mississippi State Bulldogs 38-27 in the Egg Bowl on Saturday night.
The Egg Bowl hasn't always been highly contested. In the 112-year history of the rivalry, Saturday night was just the sixth time that both teams were nationally ranked.
The game would have been even bigger had the Alabama Crimson Tide lost to the Auburn Tigers earlier on Saturday. That would have given Ole Miss an opportunity to win the SEC West and play the Florida Gators for the conference title next week, but the Crimson Tide's win dispelled any of those hopes.
Kelly threw two touchdown passes, both to Damore'ea Stringfellow, and rushed for another one, picking up 74 yards on the ground against the Bulldogs defense.
Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, who cited this game as a reason why he came back for his senior season, per Marcus Hunter of WAPT News, didn't have his best day, throwing for 254 yards with an interception and a fumble.
His bad night started early, as he fumbled the ball away on the Bulldogs' first drive of the game.
Kelly made Prescott pay for his turnover and drove down the field to score the game's first points with a 27-yard touchdown run.
It was Kelly's 10th rushing touchdown of the season, the most by a Rebels quarterback since Archie Manning in 1969, according to Ole Miss' official Twitter account.
The Rebels offense continually threw different looks at Mississippi State and moved the ball with ease, as HailState.com's Bob Carskadon noted:
Kelly hit Stringfellow with a lob in the corner of the end zone to put the Rebels up by two touchdowns with five minutes, 10 seconds left to play in the first quarter.
ESPN shared the replay (via Clay Bess):
Prescott's night went from bad to worse when he forced a pass under pressure. Tony Bridges picked it off and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown to help put Ole Miss up 21-0.
ESPN showed Bridges' pick-six (via the Blue Pennant):
The Ole Miss Spirit's Ben Garrett knew Rebels fans loved what they were seeing:
After a Mississippi State field goal, it got better for Ole Miss when Kelly hooked up with Stringfellow again for a 36-yard touchdown pass.
ESPN shared the replay of Stringfellow's second score of the game (via the Blue Pennant):
Down by 25 points, Mississippi State was up against it, as ESPN Stats & Info pointed out:
The SEC Network's Anthony McFarland was watching the beatdown:
Mississippi State finally arrived in the second half. After forcing an Ole Miss three-and-out, the Bulldogs scored their first touchdown of the game when Prescott smartly extended the football over the goal line while being taken down to the turf.
Even after the poor first half, ESPN's Robert Smith still had confidence in Prescott:
After the teams traded field goals, Jordan Wilkins put the game out of reach at the beginning of the fourth quarter with a 38-yard run to help put the Rebels up 38-13.
It came just one play after Kelly fumbled during a scramble but managed to pick the ball up after a Bulldogs defender missed it.
Mississippi State attempted to mount a comeback but didn't have enough time to do so after scoring a pair of touchdowns, both on receptions by Malik Dear.
While it won't play for the SEC title, Ole Miss ended its regular season on a high note with a convincing win over its in-state rival.
That kind of performance will sit well with the committee when it comes to the final rankings and could help the Rebels when it comes to bowl selections.
A win in a rivalry game is that much sweeter when there is a trophy involved and Ole Miss, along with head coach Hugh Freeze, was celebrating in the locker room as shown by Ole Miss Pix:
Freeze took a few moments to speak with the media, via Ole Miss' David Kellum, where he said he had a feeling that his team would "beat them pretty good":
In the home team's locker room, there weren't such happy feelings as head coach Dan Mullen knew the slow start was the thing that doomed them, via the Clarion-Ledger's Michael Bonner:
And turnovers didn't help either, via Carskadon:
For a Mississippi State team that was expected to finish last in the SEC West, entering the final week ranked 21st exceeded everyone's expectations. Now, after a bowl game, they will have to face life without Prescott, arguably one of the greatest players to wear a Mississippi State uniform.
Ole Miss on the other hand just looks to be hitting their stride as they were just a fourth and 24 away against Arkansas from playing for the SEC championship. Instead they'll have to settle for a lesser bowl, but have the pieces set for success with a solid defense and if Kelly returns next year.
Stats courtesy of ESPN.com.