November 25, 2012 7:52:31 PM
STARKVILLE -- Barring a late surprise occurring in the selection process this week, the bowl picture has been extensively cleared up for the Mississippi State University football program.
Following a 41-24 loss to the University of Mississippi Saturday in the 2012 version of the Egg Bowl rivalry, MSU (8-4, 4-4 in Southeastern Conference) is anticipating receiving an invitation to play in the 2013 Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl at Alltell Stadium in Jacksonville.
Unless Vanderbilt University, who also finished the season with a 8-4 record, is selected by the Gator Bowl committee before MSU, the Bulldogs will be making their second trip to Jacksonville on New Year's Day in the last three seasons. MSU defeated the University of Michigan 52-14 in the 2011 Gator Bowl. The Bulldogs were making their first appearance in a New Year's Day bowl since the 1999 Cotton Bowl, and their first trip to a bowl game in Florida since the 1941 SEC championship team traveled to the Orange Bowl.
"One of the things that any bowl game looks at and specifically are game looks at is creating economic impact for our city," Gator Bowl chairman Stephen Tremel said in 2010. "What that really boils down to is the fans of that particular team will travel. It really made our decision pretty easy actually, we're excited to have them here."
MSU senior associate athletic director in charge of ticket operations Mike Richey told The Dispatch Saturday that "around 1,500 tickets" had been pre-sold already for a Gator Bowl destination. MSU's donation athletic private donation department, The Bulldog Club, had put the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Music City Bowl and Gator Bowl as three contests fans could pre-purchase tickets for before the selections are revealed Sunday.
The Gator Bowl committee was admittedly surprised at the turnout of MSU fans that flocked to Jacksonville for the team's first bowl game in the Sunshine State since World War II.
"State has sold all of their tickets and asked for more tickets," Gator Bowl president Rick Catlett said in 2010. "When you're putting a matchup together for a bowl game, you're looking for three things. You want a good football game, an exciting matchup between two good football teams play a game that matches up -- nobody likes a 41-0 game. The second thing is heads and beds. The third is quite frankly television ratings."
Russell limps off late in Egg Bowl loss
MSU junior quarterback Tyler Russell was seen limping off the field with an apparent injury to his right leg after hit with around three minutes left in the final quarter of the Bulldogs' loss Saturday night.
Russell, who finished the evening 18-of-33 for 268 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, was sacked three times and hit hard on numerous occasions thanks to a aggressive Ole Miss pass rush.
"He was holding the ball a little too long and he missed a couple of throws, had a couple of high throws, especially in the first half," MSU coach Dan Mullen said. "He never got himself in rhythm."
Russell was seen needing immediate help off the field for the first few steps by the MSU training staff but then was able to walk off on his own without being able to put much pressure on his right leg.
Russell missed the 2011 Music City Bowl to complete last season after suffering an undisclosed injury to his left knee in the practices before the victory over Wake Forest University.
Skirmish uglies final seconds of 2012 Egg Bowl
Neither MSU nor Ole Miss' coaching staffs seem too clear as to what happened in the final seconds of the 2012 Egg Bowl but a skirmish among both sides and members of the Ole Miss student section that had flooded the field made for a difficult scene to end the contest.
Several MSU players were restrained and pulled into the locker room by school officials as a portion of the Ole Miss student section rushed the Rebels players in celebration.
"I was trying to find out what was going on and if any of our guys were involved in that, and who was, I wanted to make sure that they learn and grow," Mullen said. "We're not that type of program. We're a class program. We don't do that sort of stuff."
According to the SEC rule book, the Ole Miss students rushing the field does violate a bylaw instituted in 2004 imposing possible financial penalties on institutions for violations in football and men's and women's basketball. The size of the penalty is at the discretion of the commissioner.
"This policy is designed to create a safe environment for our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans," SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said in 2004 when the rule was created. "Our institutions felt that this was a step that needed to be taken to insure a safe atmosphere at all of our intercollegiate athletics events."