It’s rivalry week! The week where all the year’s smack talking among friends and family finally comes to judgement. That’s right… it’s time to see if your team backs up all the bold claims you have undoubtedly made all year. If not, you may have to face the trash talk firing squad at work on Monday. But what is it that makes this week so emotional? Last year I told my favorite Iron Bowl and Egg Bowl stories, and this year I’m going in a similar but different direction.
Well, I imagine most rivalry journeys are pretty similar, whether it be the Egg Bowl, Iron Bowl, or <insert your odd rivalry game> Bowl. But I don’t know your journey, so let me take you on mine.
Let’s get this started properly:
Hotty Toddy. Go to Hell State!
Calm down. My Dog friends will understand. They would greet me the same on this time of year. It’s basically hello in Egg Bowl language.
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Documentation I Had No Choice
There is a VHS tape, yes, I’m old, of me swimming when I was around five. My dad asked me who I “played for”? When I was a kid, I said played for instead of cheered for teams. Not sure why, but I did. So, I responded how he had taught me “Ole Miss.” But with me being, you know – a kid – I responded, “Ole Miss Bulldogs.” You couldn’t see my dad on the video, but you didn’t need to see him to understand the intent and seriousness in his voice when he responded, “LIKE HELL, NOT IN THIS HOUSE.” Keep in mind my sweet mother went to Mississippi State, and from that point forward, it was known.
My First Egg
In 1986 my dad took me to my first Egg Bowl. They played the game in Jackson in those days, so the first five I saw were in my hometown. It was stupid cold and stormed the entire game. Ole Miss came out wearing red the first half and blue in the second half. I think that was really cool in retrospect, but at the time I really didn’t care. I was six and thought it was insane to sit at a game in those conditions. But, in the end, my Rebels won – and the proverbial hook was set.
Hate for the Other Guys
It was 1988, and we were sitting on the line of demarcation. That was the spot in old Memorial Stadium’s ‘bowled in’ endzone where the two fan bases converged. As we sat there, I learned a few new words – mostly venomous and of the ‘4 letter’ variety. I also noticed a kid my age was staring at me, and he was wearing maroon. We locked eyes and both knew immediately, with no words spoken, we were mortal enemies.
When Ole Miss made a good play, I would give him my best death stare. When State would do well, he would return the favor. I’m sad to say that he won the battle of evil stares that day – as I tasted my first Egg Bowl defeat. It was bitter, and internal lines were being drawn. The Rebel was seeping deep into my veins at this point – and I was learning why I hate maroon.
These Guys Really Don’t Like Each Other
The 1990 Egg Bowl was the first time I witnessed the nasty side of this rivalry. That’s when Ole Miss punt returner Vincent Brownlee called for a fair catch, but a Bulldog defender either missed the signal – or cared not. In any event, he drilled Brownlee, leading to a world class WWF style melee. It was glorious. No one fought over who on the game that year – we fought over who won the fight. Of course, the Rebs won both.
In 1998, the teams from Mississippi locked fists again in Starkville for another epic brawl. Since then, the Egg Bowl has been one of the most toxic matchups in college sports.
All Hail King Jackie
The game left Jackson in 1991 and headed back to the respective campuses. State had a new head man on the sideline, one that would single handedly take the rivalry up several notches – the notorious Jackie Sherill.
Sherill had won everywhere, but he also left all his prior teams on probation. However, the king could coach. More important than winning, he knew how to piss off the Ole Miss fanbase, and that is like manna for my MSU brothers.
State won the first game that was back on campuses and King Jackie launched his verbal attack on “Mississippi.” He wouldn’t call them Ole Miss.
The very next year, the big game was in Oxford. For the first time in my life, both teams were headed to bowls and pretty good.
I was in 7th grade at Northwest Rankin, which was a haven for the Bell Ringers. Needless to say, this may have been the pinnacle of childhood pregame trash talk. The bus rides during the week leading up to the Egg Bowl were absolutely epic.
So how was the game? It snowed beforehand because everyone knows you can’t play this game in normal weather. Ole Miss held State out of the endzone for 12 consecutive plays from inside the 10 – with some penalties mixed in there – in what would become known as “The Stand.” Ole Miss was victorious.
I stepped on the bus the following week and as I turned the corner, I let my fury out! After that outburst, there was nothing left of my throat. I was hoarse for a solid week after that one. But man, it felt good. Everything was right with the world.
All Those In Between
There have been so many more Egg Bowl moments. I was there when Tubberville beat State in 95 in Starkville – my first live, eye-opening experience in the belly of the beast. That day, I saw a grown man lift his head to the heavens and bark passionately as if he were trying to request a bowl of kibble from the gods.
I was in Oxford the next year when Joe Lee Dunn’s defense dominated the Rebs. Greg Favors taunted the Ole Miss stands, and my pops may or may not have showered him with bourbon. In his defense, he wasn’t alone, and it seemed Greg enjoyed it. Greg had like 12 sacks that day.
I remember jumping on my dad’s back when Stewart Patridge hit Cory Peterson for a 2-point conversion, and Tubby became known as the Riverboat Gambler in 1998. I was there when State clinched the SEC West in Oxford. I was also in the stands in Starkville when a former schoolmate Scott Westerfield hit the game winning field goal for the Bulldogs – following the kicked interception. I saw Eli end the Kings career in dominating fashion. And finally, I remember where I was when Pegues broke the punt return that nailed the coffin for Coach O’s career in Oxford.
I also witnessed the fastest rise and fall of two programs ever under Freeze and Mullen. Those idiots told Sherill and Brewer to hold my beer watch what we can do. I believe that was the height of toxicity in the rivalry in my lifetime as well. I mean, State had a dude that looks like the lead singer of Korn writing books about Ole Miss. Things got a bit crazy.
Passing the Torch
My last live Egg Bowl with my pops was in 2009 when Ole Miss won 45-0 and set the school record for sacks. Now I’m the dad, but I did it a little differently.
My oldest became a Rebel organically – just by watching games with dad. Her first Egg Bowl saw State hand Ole Miss the worst beating of the series in 100 years, and she had a blast. I didn’t show her the hateful side of the rivalry that I grew up with. We went to the game. She got her picture with Donte Moncrief and got a Laquon Treadwell jersey – a score wasn’t about to determine the outcome of the day.
Now Ole Miss and State have two coaches that actually respect each other, and I love the Pirate – what a world. But for someone who grew up reveling in the heated side of the rivalry, the older version of me really appreciates enjoying it this way. It’s just a game and should absolutely be treated as such. It’s nothing more and they will play it again next year!
So, to all my Rebels – Hotty Toddy!
To all my Dogs – Hail State!
Hey, I know these are all my rivalry stories, but if you enjoyed, do me a favor and share yours in the comments. Would love to see them and we may share some of the good ones in another story!
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