OXFORD – It had to happen sometime.
When Dan Mullen took over as coach of the Mississippi State football program, beating Ole Miss was on the top of his list.
Saturday night that didn't happen.
The Rebels (6-6, 3-5) beat the No. 25 (Associated Press) Bulldogs (8-4, 4-4) 41-24 in the Egg Bowl in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
The Bulldogs went into the game winning the last three matchups. All three were under Mullen's reign.
The game had shades of 2009, when the Rebels came into Starkville with a No. 20 Associated Press ranking. The Bulldogs won that day 41-27.
"Give them credit," Mullen said. "Their kids played hard, (and) made a lot of plays when they needed to make big plays. We had a lot of critical errors, especially in the red zone. (We had) a lot of opportunities in the red zone. I think three opportunities in the red zone in the first half netted three points. Those are things, obviously, on the road in the SEC, you can't make."
With the victory, Ole Miss becomes bowl eligible for the first time since 2009.
The Bulldogs found themselves leading 14-10 midway through the second quarter. They faced a fourth-down-and-one from the Ole Miss 18-yard line.
The offense was on the field, but Mullen and the Bulldogs called a timeout to think it over.
"We felt good about the play call we had," Mullen said. "We didn't feel good about the first play call we had so we took the timeout. (We were) talking about we felt pretty good about the situation we were in. We are down in the red zone and I wanted to score a touchdown. This is a big game and we are here to win."
They decided to go for it. Redshirt freshman Dak Prescott ran toward the line and tried a jump pass, but it fell incomplete and the Rebels took over on downs.
"It was a good play," MSU offensive coordinator Les Koenning said. "We had ran it earlier in practice and actually hit it for a touchdown. (We) felt real confident with it, kids felt real confident with it and (it was) just a lack of execution."
Ole Miss sophomore quarterback Bo Wallace then found sophomore wide receiver Donte Moncrief for a 77-yard passing score to give it a 17-14 lead with 5:19 remaining in the half.
The Bulldogs managed to get a 23-yard field goal from freshman place kicker Devon Bell right before half.
The Rebels came out and scored 24-straight points in the second half, to put the game away.
Wallace found Moncrief twice in the third quarter. He hit him for a 22-yard strike with 6:47 to go in the third quarter, and then found him for a 16-yard passing score with 3:40 to go in the third period.
"(Moncrief) made a bunch of plays," Mullen said. "Obviously, we didn't (cover him) very well. That is another thing we will evaluate as a staff."
Wallace found Vince Sanders with 11:44 left in the final period for a 16-yard touchdown pass to make it 41-17 Rebels.
The Bulldogs added a late 8-yard passing score by Prescott to senior wide out Chad Bumphis late in the fourth quarter.
The Rebels jumped out to an early 7-0 lead after a four-play drive. Wallace found Jamal Mosley for a 25-yard strike to make it 7-0 with 13:17 remaining in the opening period.
Sophomore Jameon Lewis took the ensuing kickoff 100 yards to tie the game at 7-7.
MSU junior quarterback Tyler Russell found Bumphis for a 42-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-7 with 2:46 left in the first quarter.
MSU senior linebacker Cameron Lawrence had two interceptions in the first half, but the Bulldogs were unable to capitalize on the Ole Miss miscues.
"When you're on the road in this league, you get opportunities, and you don't capitalize on them, you're not going to be successful," Mullen said.
The Bulldogs only managed to pick up 30 yards on 25 attempts on the ground, and was a big reason the offense never got going in the second half.
Junior running back LaDarius Perkins was held to 45 yards on 16 attempts.
"(It was) a little struggle," Koenning said. "We just couldn't quite get it going. We are going to go through film and watch it. We didn't think they were overloading us. They were playing hard and we just needed to stay after it."
The Rebels ended the night with 527 total yards of offense to the Bulldogs 333.
"We are attempting to be more aggressive in some of our coverages to get us close," MSU defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said. "When those occur, you are either really good when you make those plays or you're not. When you're not, they become explosive plays."
The Rebels picked up 28 first downs, while the Bulldogs only managed to get 17.
Wallace was 15-of-22 passing for 294 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions.
Russell was 18-of-33 passing for 268 yards, one score and two interceptions.
Moncrief had 173 yards on seven catches for Ole Miss. He also had three scores through the air.
Bumphis had six catches for 146 yards and two scores.
Ole Miss running back Jeff Scott finished the night with 113 yards on the ground on 28 carries.
The Bulldogs await their bowl game. Bowl matchups will be announced on Sunday, Dec. 2.
"(We were) pretty successful," Mullen said of the season. "We are 8-4. Obviously our goal is to win a conference championship. We didn't accomplish that. We also play in the best conference in all of college football. There are a lot of people that had good seasons that didn't get to win a conference championship in the SEC."