Ole Miss and Mississippi State have played each other 115 times. Of those 115 games, 23 have been played on Thanksgiving Day. It’s a polarizing idea – most fans either love it or hate it. On one hand, there are hardly any other games to watch during this time. On the other, families tend to be traveling, and the 7:30 kickoff falls right in the middle of dinner time. Ole Miss fans can think of a million other places they’d rather spend Thanksgiving than Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, MS. With tickets as low as $6.50 right now, it appears most fans on both sides will be doing just that.
This reminds me, at least in part, of 2011. I watched every home game from a nearly empty stadium. I watched as we allowed fired head coach Houston Nutt to finish the season long after he quit on the program. That Egg Bowl ended in a 31-3 victory for Mississippi State. Those were dark times.
A New Tradition
My first Thanksgiving Egg Bowl as an Ole Miss fan came in 2013. I was a junior in college, and my family was spending the holiday at my great uncle’s house in Colorado. The 6 hour drive home and flight to Denver made for a tiring journey, but I didn’t mind. It wasn’t often I got to see my great aunt and uncle, and I loved visiting their ranch. We arrived early and spent the day drinking local craft beer, eating, and catching up.
My Uncle Peter was the type of person who always made you feel like you were the most important one in the room. I remember visiting him one summer as a kid and spending the entire trip talking his ear off about hockey. I rambled on about which goalie had the best stats, which cards I had collected, and who was going to win the Stanley Cup. He wasn’t even really a hockey fan, but he still entertained me the whole trip. He found his son’s old roller blades and a stick, and played goalie for me on the driveway all afternoon.
At an age when most adults wouldn’t give you the time of day, Peter took a genuine interest in me. I learned to appreciate that quality the older I got. That was the last time I ever saw Uncle Peter. He passed away less than three years after that 2013 Egg Bowl.
The game kicked off at 5:30 Mountain Time. By that point, I had hyped up the Rebels’ young talent. The future looked bright under new coach Hugh Freeze and freshmen superstars Laquon Treadwell and Robert Nkemdiche. The game, however, turned ugly. Bo Wallace threw 3 interceptions. Neither team could move the ball consistently or find the end zone. The score was tied at 10 going into overtime. With MSU scoring on a 4th down play, the Rebels needed a TD to stay alive. Wallace sprinted towards the end zone on a QB keeper. It looked like the game was destined for a second overtime, but a Bulldog defender stripped the ball out just before he crossed the goal line. MSU recovered the fumble to secure the victory. My heart sank as I struggled to grasp what had just happened.
Even after the roller coaster that followed our back-to-back NY6 bowls, the heartbreak that comes with being an Ole Miss fan never gets easier. I could preview the game tomorrow, breaking down each team’s strengths and weaknesses, but I’d be telling you what you already know. Vegas currently has the Bulldogs as a 2.5 point favorite, but any gambler familiar with this rivalry knows to stay far away from this one. Judging by past performance, it’s going to be a tight one.
The future of Thanksgiving Day Egg Bowls is up in the air. Only the 2020 contest is scheduled for Thanksgiving Day. Tomorrow’s game will consist of my three favorite things in life: family, football, and food. Although my first Thanksgiving Egg Bowl may not have gone to my liking, this game will forever remind me of the incredible man that was my Uncle Peter. For that, I will always be thankful.