By MATTHEW STEVENS
In a twist of irony, the two favorites for the Cellular South Conerly Trophy met on the final offensive play in Oxford Saturday night.
While Mississippi State’s Corey Broomfield got credit for the stop on the Rebels fourth-and-24 play deep in their own territory, it was Bulldogs senior linebackers Chris White that got a shot in on Ole Miss quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.
“Hopefully, we get to go down to the Conerly on Tuesday and get to celebrate Chris winning it,” Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen said. “I think he’s the most deserving player in the state of that award.”
White finished his final Egg Bowl matchup tied for the team-high in tackles with nine tackles, 1.5 of them behind the line of scrimmage, and ended the regular season leading MSU with 105 total tackles.
“The Egg Bowl is still a much bigger deal because that trophy is a team deal,” White said. “I’ve just going to leave it up to the sportswriters and let them vote on it.”
In his final game of his college career, Masoli finished Saturday night completing 24-of-44 for 261 yards and a touchdown along with an interception.
“Masoli is a heck of a player but ultimately if you’re one dimensional, it’s hard to win a football game that way,” Mississippi State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said.
The Vancleave native posted 11 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in the Bulldogs 10-7 victory at Florida on Oct. 16. The day after State’s first victory in Gainesville since 1965, White was named both the Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week and SEC Defensive Player of the Week marking the first time a MSU player earned that league honor since 2007.
“It definitely feels good to be nominated for it but my goal was not to win postseason awards,” White said. “Mississippi State has a tradition of playing great defense and I’m proud to be a part of that. Even if I’d had other offers, I remember wanting to be a player in this school’s tradition.”
White made the switch to his natural middle linebacker position this spring after the graduation of Jamar Chaney has had season-high totals in tackles, sacks, interceptions and fumble recovery.
“He wasn’t on everybody’s watch list, was learning a new position in his second season in the program,” Mullen said. “He has to be the MVP of the defense this season and has dominated on that side of the ball.”
If he’s selected this year, White would become the first Mississippi State defensive player to win the award since its inception in 1996 with defensive back Fred Smoot being the last MSU player nominated from that side of the ball in 2000.
The last player to win the award that was not one of the three Division 1 schools in the Magnolia State was Millsaps College quarterback Juan Joseph.
The Conerly Trophy will be presented Tuesday at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Jackson.
Seniors go out with winning Egg Bowl record
For the first time since 2000, the 2010 four-year graduating class at Mississippi State will leave with a winning record against Ole Miss.
The four-year group from 1998-01 ended with the same 3-1 record that this year’s class achieved Saturday night with its 31-23 victory in Oxford.
“It was a great win for our seniors to send them out again as champions of this game,” Mullen said.
Those seniors will get also get to begin and their careers with bowl game trips as the Bulldogs will learn their postseason destination after the conference championship games this Sunday.
“It’s a great feeling to go 3-1 in my career because I’ll never forget the game in 2008 but this game (Saturday) felt amazing,” senior center J.C. Brignone said.
For the junior college transfers like White, they’ll end up undefeated in their two games against the Rebels in the Battle for the Golden Egg.
Senior defensive end Pernell McPhee completed a perfect 4-0 streak against rivalry opponents going back to his one season at Pahokee (Fla.) High School and his two seasons at Itawamba Community College. State’s best pass rusher matched his season-long sack total Saturday evening with one and had two tackles for a loss.
“We’ve been saying all along that Pernell’s big plays would come and really felt like that’s what happened tonight,” Diaz said.
If he’s able to be the Mississippi State quarterback as a senior, Chris Relf has the opportunity to be the signal caller for three wins against Ole Miss for the first time since 1940.
Relf had 288 yards and three touchdowns through the air while also adding 66 rushing yards. While Relf’s 354 yards of total offense was a career high, Relf’s passing total was the most since Wesley Carroll threw for 421 yards against Arkansas in 2007.
“It feels good to win the Egg Bowl and keep it at Mississippi State,” Relf said. “We’ve been waiting on this game all year.”
State jumps up to 22nd in both polls
After an emotional Egg Bowl win, Mississippi State jumped three spots spot to 22nd in the latest ESPN/USA Today Coaches’ poll.
Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4 in the Southeastern Conference) received 223 points in the week 13 version of the coaches’ poll that was released Sunday morning. The coaches’ poll is part of the BCS formula used to determine the national champion.
The Bulldogs were the only four-loss team in the Top 25 poll as Iowa fell out of the rankings after losing to Minnesota this past weekend. It is the first time since 1999 that Mississippi State has finished the
Six Southeastern Conference teams (Auburn, Arkansas, LSU, South Carolina, Alabama and MSU) were a part of the new poll, which was the most of any other league.
The only SEC Western Division team not ranked in the poll was State’s opponent in the Egg Bowl matchup: Ole Miss (4-8, 1-7).
Oregon kept the top spot in the coaches’ poll by getting 46 of 59 possible first place votes. Auburn maintained the second spot as the Tigers received 10 first-place votes. TCU jumped into the third spot after Boise State’s loss at Nevada Friday night as the Horned Frogs had a three top-spot votes. Wisconsin moved up one spot to fourth while Stanford rounded out the top five in this week’s poll.
Mullen is among the 59 head coaches in the voting process in 2010.
Mississippi State was also placed 22nd the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll released shortly after the coaches’ poll.
Oregon was also top-ranked in the AP poll with the same top five as the Coaches’ poll.