Recapping the college week my way

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 29, 2001

Mississippi State and Ole Miss both “had it” Thanksgiving night, but State simply had more “of it.” Actually, the way I see it – and I don’t see too good much of the time – the Bulldogs of Jackie Sherrill and Joe Lee Dunn were a smidgin more hard-nosed than the Rebels.

In the trenches, that is, and that’s where games are won most of the time. Ole Miss was actually favored, but State was meaner and leaner.

One of the unlikely heroes for Mississippi State was a cornerback, of all people; not to minimize the importance of cornerbacks. Yep, Korey Banks, a name I didn’t remember, led State’s defensive heroics when it was a must, and any way you cut it, the Bulldog offense stepped up when Ole Miss’ was rolling too.

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The 36-28 score for State tells you it had to be a great game. Great? You bet. The Bulldogs knew they couldn’t wind up 2001 better than 3-7 (2-6 in the SEC), but they knew they could put a crimp in Ole Miss’ bowl hopes with a win.

Sherrill said something like “The game was for all the marbles for 365 days in this state. In this character game, our players came back and came back and never quit.” All kinds of slants have been put on the big intrastate battle of long duration, and there were heroics rather numerous for State, the way I see it.

But despite individual standouts like sophomore quarterback Kevin Fant and tailbacks Dicenzo Miller and Dontae Walker and others, to me it was the solid, down-the-stretch, in the trenches play by State’s line. Ole Miss, you see, was playing just as well all the while, but State kept the heat on and Ole Miss finally had trouble keeping pace.

Every Bulldog deserves equal credit, but Fant has to be set aside somewhat as special in the Bulldog conquest. He knew where he was at all times, and that’s why he could keep his poise. The result was a passing day of 263 yards. “Fant was steady all night,” Sherrill was to say after the big Egg Bowl victory.

That was of course very true, and it always will be of individuals in this rivalry. Ole Miss still leads in the series, but State’s been peckin’ at the Rebels lately.

Speaking of the Rebels, there is a young quarterback named Eli Manning in their camp that has two more years and most likely a rosy future in the pros afterward. He’d do well and State’s Fant would answer Thanksgiving night, of course, but the son-of-Archie has got it to perform Manning things well.

The University of Southern Mississippi (yep) surely you noticed out-toughed East Carolina 28-21, coming from behind Friday in championship fashion. Conference USA fashion that is.

LSU’s hard-to-figure Tigers continued to be a factor in the SEC West by outlasting Arkansas 41-38 – like you didn’t already know. The Tigers are hard to figure, actually. But they’re 7-3, 4-3 SEC, and that means they’re pretty good any way you cut it. They oughta get the division title and bowl bid. But Auburn Saturday could be a factor.

Did Southern’s resilience against the EC Pirates on TV impress you? It was on TV, I was impressed by the Eagles, and I know others were as well. Quarterback Jeff Kelly wasn’t that effective, but he gained enough to go over 2,000 passing yards on the season. And enough to win.

Glenvall Estes is a longtime sports columnist for The Democrat.