Moncrief got fed over and over in the Battle for the Golden Egg and was the ultimate target for Bo Wallace. The Rebel sophomore from Raleigh, Miss., caught seven passes for 173 yards. Three of them were for touchdowns.
“I practiced great all week, and I made a lot of big catches in practice,” Moncrief said. “So the better you practice, the better you play in a game. I practiced great so I had a great game.”
Head coach Hugh Freeze concurred.
“All week long I felt we had a good matchup with him. He had about had enough of hearing how good their secondary was. Felt like if given an opportunity without double coverage he was going to win. We happened to call some plays at the right time where they didn’t have a safety rolled over the top of him, and he won.”
How does he like all the notoriety? He wants it to be all about the team and not him.
“Last year was great but I knew I needed to get stronger and faster tio make plays for my teammates,” he said. “Coach (Paul Jackson) got me stronger, Coach (Freeze) started believing in me, and I started making plays.”
No matter what other teams or coaches say about Ole Miss, Moncrief said this program will be positives.
“We ain’t going to play with hate; we’re going to play with love,” he said. “That’s what we did. We ain’t going to talk smack about it. We’re going to be a great team and keep going.”
The Second Half
Ole Miss and MSU were tied 17-17 at halftime. The Rebels had three turnovers, a 100-yard kickoff return against them, and a couple of bad punts.
The difference was no two shanked punts, no three turnovers, no kickoff return, no blown coverages,” Freeze said. “The second half we didn’t do those things. We ran the football more effectively in the second half, and felt we had some things in our play-action pass we could throw at any time. It was very effective to us all night.
The Golden Egg
“And the defense, we challenged them at halftime to just do your job,” Freeze continued. “We did nothing special, We didn’t bring many blitzes at all. We just said line up and do your job. Then line up and do it again. When we do those things, we’ve been pretty decent.”
Those things were corrected in the second half. MSU didn’t score again until seven seconds remained in the game. By then, the Rebels had tacked on 24 points and led 41-17.
It was an amazing turnaround from the first half. Or was it?
“I saw at the end of the first half when we went in some tempo stuff, that they really didn’t like that a whole lot. I made up my mind at halftime we were going to sell out our first possessions and go tempo stuff.’ It seemed to be effective for us, and I thought that set the tone for us.
Moncrief said it was all about taking care of the football in the second half, and sticking with what they knew would work.
“The second half we just got together and said this is what we wanted. We locked the Vaught and we came out fighting. We talked about our offense hanging into the football, and when the ball came your way, to make a play. And that’s what we did.”
Bowling? Yes, Indeed
Ole Miss is bowl eligible for the first time since the 2009 season. The Rebels did not bowl in 2010 or 2011. This holiday season, they’ll play somewhere.
But where? Birmingham? Memphis? Those seem to be the two destinations that are mostly in play for the Rebels.
That would be the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, and the Liberty Bowl in Memphis.
Liberty Bowl officials have attended practically every Ole Miss game this season. Executive Director Steve Ehrhart was in attendance for the Egg Bowl.
“We have to work with the (Southeastern Conference). We’ve got to wait and see if there are two teams in the BCS. We have to wait until that Sunday (Dec. 2) and then they’ll go through the allocation of teams. It’s really not in our control.”
“We’re going to try and have some talks with the league. Again like the old days, the bowl was in control. (Now) it’s really in the hands of the league office and the contracts of the league. I can’t speak for (the league), but we’ll work with the league throughout the week and then I’m sure they won’t allow anybody to be announced until a week from tomorrow.”
Ehrhart said Ole Miss is a good fit for the Libety Bowl, with a campus an hour away.
“It’s such a beautiful natural thing. It’s the 20th anniversary of the last time Ole Miss was in our bowl. With Hugh (Freeze) coming back to Memphis, and all the recruiting that’s going on in the north Mississippi and Memphis area. So, yes, we’ve been very clear we’d love to have (Ole Miss).”
“We’ll certainly be in touch (with the SEC office), but some things are not in our control.”
MSU head coach Dan Mullen said it was pretty clear the Bulldogs not capitalizing in the first half was detrimental to their cause.
“Give them credit. Their kids played hard and made big plays when they needed to make them. We had three opportunities in the red zone in the first half and netted three points. On the road in the SEC, you can’t not come away with points and expect to win.”
Mullen, who has jabbed at Ole Miss for four years and beaten the Rebels the first three times, was shown on the videoboard at Ole Miss following the game. It was a video that Mullen said his program would not lose to Ole Miss. He addressed that when he was asked about it.
“They love me. They keeping put me on the jumbotron, that means they love me,” he said.
It’s a different approach than Freeze and his program take.
“I could not be prouder of a group of young men and coaches,” Freeze said. “I’m first and foremost happy and thrilled for them. Secondly for our fans and our administration, the people of Rebel Nation that have had to go through losing the momentum in this series.
“I do think we went about it a little different than maybe some,” Freeze continued. “We didn’t play out of hatred for anyone. It was more about playing out of love for one another and this University. And I thought our kids proved about how they cared for one another in the way they performed tonight.”