Thursday night's Egg Bowl matchup featured an intense quarterback battle between MSU sophomore Will Rogers and Ole Miss Heisman contender Matt Corral, with several calling the contest the "battle for the best quarterback in Mississippi."
Despite a strong comeback effort from the Bulldogs, it was just too little just a little bit too late. The game ultimately ended with the Rebels claiming the 31-21 victory in Davis Wade Stadium and taking home the trophy for the second consecutive year.
Here's a look into how each of the quarterbacks in the Thanksgiving Day matchup fared in one of the biggest games of the year for each team.
Corral and his offense took the field first amid a very hostile environment in Davis Wade Stadium. He threw an incomplete pass to start the game, which sent the fans into a frenzy. On third down and 10, his pass was caught less than a yard short of the first down. The Rebels could not convert, and MSU took over on the Ole Miss 33-yard line.
Rogers completed his three of his first four passes on the drive before the field goal unit stepped on and converted a 34-yarder.
With his team behind early, Corral came back onto the field looking to get something going. His first pass of the drive was caught and taken for 29 yards to the MSU 38-yard line. He demonstrated his ability to both run and pass as he helped his team march down the field. Ultimately, he was taken down on a huge third-down play in the red zone and his field goal unit came on.
Rogers was ready to show his stuff as well. On the first play of the drive, he completed an 11-yarder to Makai Polk. After a few rushing plays, he once against stepped up to pass-- this time, to Jaden Walley to push deeper into Ole Miss territory. He had one more fall incomplete before converting a pivotal third down and five with a six-yard pass to Polk. Then, Rogers completed his longest throw of the game up until that point when he hit Austin Williams for 20 yards. After an incompletion, he was sacked for a loss of eight yards to bring up a third and goal from 15 yards away. Although he completed a short pass, Rogers was not able to reach the goal line, and the field goal unit came on to kick again.
With 0:55 left in the quarter, Corral came back on. He completed his first pass for three yards before the clock ran out.
Corral: 6-of-7 passing for 60 yards
Rogers: 9-of-12 passing for 69 yards
Corral started the quarter with his second incompletion of the day--this one on a deep ball that could have been picked off. Facing a second down and 15 with nobody open, Corral chose to run and was stopped quickly. He ran again on third down and 10, but had much more success and made it to the first down marker. Another deep ball was overthrown, and his second-down pass got a mere two yards. His third-down pass fell incomplete again, and his frustration became evident as his team was forced to punt away.
Rogers and company took over on their 20-yard line. His first pass was thrown way out of bounds, but he recovered nicely with a 12-yard pass to push the chains. A series of complete passes-- including a deep ball to Polk-- propelled the Bulldogs down the field. His third-down pass fell incomplete, and the Bulldogs were forced to kick yet another field goal. This time, the kick was no good, and Corral took over at his 22-yard line.
Corral's first pass was incomplete, but he converted a third down and seven to the 34-yard line to keep the Rebels' drive alive early. He was sacked for a loss of 12 on the following play but completed his next pass for 26 yards to get out of trouble. Corral sustained some of the momentum he had found on the long pass to pass down the field through a few short passes and scrambles. Ultimately, the drive ended with a two-yard rushing touchdown by running back Snoop Conner.
Facing the team's first deficit of the day, Rogers knew that he had to keep his team in the game. With 2:15 left in the second quarter, the Bulldogs took over at their own 21-yard line. His first two passes-- one to Malik Heath and another to Walley--both fell incomplete by a lot. However, he made up for it with a 19-yard pass to Tulu Griffin to move the chains on third down and 10. Rogers found Griffin again twice in a row to put the Dawgs at the Ole Miss 16-yard line for a fresh set of downs. Rogers found Jo'quavious Marks for an 11 yard gain to the five-yard line. However, a holding penalty and three dropped touchdown passes in a row hurt the Bulldogs once again. The field goal unit came back on and missed yet another field goal, and the Bulldogs went into the half down 10-6.
Corral: 12-of-17 passing for 118 yards
Rogers: 18-of-29 for 187 yards
Mississippi State got the ball at the start of the second half. Rogers started strong with an 11-yard pass to Polk to get things going, but couldn't do anything beyond that to get the ball downfield. Even when his receivers caught the ball, they were stopped well short. The Dawgs punted the ball away.
Corral and his receivers struggled some against State's defense in the first half, but he completed his first three passes to give his team some much-needed momentum. One of those passes was a 34-yarder to Dontario Drummond to put the Rebels at the Mississippi State 23-yard line. The team scored a few plays later on a one-yard rush by Connor to extend the lead to 11.
Suddenly down 17-6, Rogers and his team knew they had to act fast. Mist swirled in the stadium and a cold wind blew as they made their way back onto the field. A short pass and an incomplete in a row brought up a third down and 10 quickly, and Rogers was taken down for a sack. Yet again, the Ole Miss offense took over.
Corral came onto the field knowing that he had the opportunity to put the game out of reach right there. He ran 42 yards to the MSU 40-yard line, but the play was called back due to an offensive holding penalty. Suddenly, the Rebels found themselves facing a third down and 19 that they could not overcome.
Rogers completed four of five passes on the following drive and rushed for eight yards, but his team choked in the worst possible moment. Facing a fourth and seven from the Ole Miss 33-yard line, Rogers was sacked from behind and the ball was given to Ole Miss again.
Corral's first deep pass of the drive fell incomplete, but he picked up the slack from there. He completed two passes before time ran out on the clock.
Corral: 19-of-25 passing for 186 yards
Rogers: 25-of-38 passing for 230 yards
Corral and his crew started the quarter facing a second down and five from the MSU 31 but were stopped short twice in a row to bring up a fourth down and four. Corral took the snap in an empty backfield and hit Jerrion Ealy for 11 yards to convert the crucial fourth down. A few plays later, Corral twisted and hopped his way into the end zone for a four-yard Ole Miss touchdown.
If Rogers had any drive left to finish the game, he needed to prove it to the many Bulldogs fans who had come to watch the game. 11:11 was the time on the clock when MSU took over at their own 25-yard line. He had a short completion to Heath to start the drive, but two terrible incompletions in a row killed any momentum that the team had and brought up a fourth down and five. As expected, he threw a pass too low and it was batted away. Fans began to leave the stands, less than pleased at what they had witnessed from their quarterback.
The Rebels took over again right at the 50-yard line. Corral seemed to have it going yet again...until he didn't. Jett Johnson picked Corral off and returned it all the way to the Ole Miss 22-yard line.
Rogers was in the perfect position to have some sort of redemption. Two straight offsides penalties against the defense to start the drive gave the Bulldogs 10 free yards and put them at the Ole Miss 12-yard line. His first pass was complete to Dillon Johnson for a gain of one yard. Then, he found Walley in the end zone for the 11-yard touchdown pass. Just like that, the team was down by only 11 points with 7:20 left to go in the game.
There was a chance that the Bulldogs could come back. It was small, but it was there. The Rebels got the onside kick, and Corral took the field looking to erase his costly interception. Ole Miss ran it a few times before allowing Corral to attempt a pass on second down and 10. He threw that pass incomplete, as well as one on third down, but defensive pass interference was called to give the Rebels a fresh set of downs at the MSU 15-yard line. With 5:35 left in the quarter, Corral hit Ealy with a 15-yard touchdown pass to give the rebels a 31-13 lead.
The game was essentially over, but Rogers had to finish it out. His teammate Griffin took the kickoff to the MSU 34 to start the drive in decent field position. Rogers completed five of six passes before the team was met with a fourth down and one at the Ole Miss 20-yard line. Marks scrambled down to the 11-yard line, and then added an 11-yard touchdown run with 2:27 left in the game. Rogers completed the two-point conversion to Makai Polk to make it a 31-21 point game.
Ole Miss recovered the second onside kick of the night to all but seal the deal. In an attempt to run the clock as much as possible, the Rebels chose to use their running backs to drain the clock. The Mississippi State defense was able to make a big fourth down stop to give the offense one more chance to play.
Rogers completed three long passes to get the Bulldogs to the Ole Miss 18-yard line with 41 seconds left. Then, he threw two incomplete passes in a row. Although they stopped the clock, they also killed all momentum. He completed a short pass to Williams to convert a fourth down and one. The game ended with plenty of drama. A slew of penalties gave Mississippi State the ball at the five-yard line with no time on the clock, but they were allowed one more play. Rogers as tackled short of the goal line to end the game.
Corral: 25-of-33 passing for 229 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Rogers: 38-of-58 passing for 336 yards with one touchdown.
With that, the debate of Mississippi's best college quarterback was ended. Despite an impressive, record-breaking regular season from Rogers, Corral ultimately proved himself. There's hope that Rogers will reach that level in a few years, but he doesn't quite have the confidence or playmaking ability that Corral has.