Ole Miss sophomore wide receiver A.J. Brown, a former standout at Starkville High School, kisses the Egg Bowl trophy on Thursday following his team’s 31-28 win against No. 16 Mississippi State at Davis Wade Stadium. Photo by: Chris McDill/Special to The Dispatch Buy this photo.
November 24, 2017 10:16:38 AM
STARKVILLE -- It took almost two full seasons before Starkville native A.J. Brown played a collegiate game at Davis Wade Stadium.
The Ole Miss sophomore wide receiver made up for lost time Thursday night.
Brown had six receptions for 167 yards and a touchdown as Ole Miss upset No. 16 Mississippi State 31-28 on Thanksgiving night to win the Battle for the Golden Egg for the third time in four seasons.
"This is my city," Brown said twice for emphasis into the television cameras after catching a 77-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Ta'amu early in the third quarter.
Brown was an All-State receiver in high school and the subject of an intense recruiting battle. After helping Starkville High School to the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A State championship in 2015, Brown chose Ole Miss.
Former high school teammates Kobe Jones and Willie Gay Jr. suited up for MSU.
Ole Miss (6-6, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) sent its seniors out with a 3-1 record in the Egg Bowl. The Rebels are ineligible for postseason play due to a self-imposed bowl ban. MSU (8-4, 4-4) will learn its postseason destination Dec. 3.
"This was our bowl game, our championship game, everything rolled into one," Brown said. "It is good to bring the Egg back home. We are excited about this win. We had to get the Egg Bowl back."
Brown became Ole Miss' single-season leader in receiving yards. His 1,252 yards eclipsed the mark of 1,153 yards set by Laquon Treadwell in 2015.
Also on offense, senior running back Jordan Wilkins ran for 110 yards and two touchdowns to become the school's seventh 1,000-yard rusher. He is the first to do that since Dexter McCluster in 2010.
"I felt like our biggest advantage was our receivers versus their defensive backs," Ole Miss coach Matt Luke said. "We wanted to take advantage of that. Anytime they played one high, we thought we could take advantage of that."
Ole Miss had its third game with two scoring passing plays of 60 or more yards. No other SEC school has more than one.
Ta'amu was 10-for-22 passing for 247 yards and two touchdowns. D.K. Metcalf also had a 63-yard touchdown catch.
The tone was set early when Ta'amu hit Brown for a 58-yard pass on the second play. Wilkins followed with a 22-yard run for a 7-0 lead.
The Bulldogs were then sent reeling when junior quarterback Nick Fitzgerald was lost for the rest of the season with a dislocated ankle.
The Bulldogs trailed 10-6 at halftime.
"We knew we were in a position," said Brown, who finished the season with 75 catches for 1,252 yards and 11 touchdowns. "We just had to come out and make plays. In this game, anything is possible. You have to keep attacking."
Freshman reserve quarterback Keytaon Thompson helped lead a fourth-quarter rally. Down 24-6 entering that period, the Bulldogs had three scoring drives, including a 30-yard run by Columbus native Kylin Hill.
The Bulldogs had 501 yards of offense but committed five turnovers.
Ole Miss thought it had put the game away with scoring strikes to Brown and Metcalf in the third quarter.
The Ta'amu-to-Brown connection was huge because the home crowd was beginning to make noise after a lackluster first half.
"I was kind of nervous that (Ta'amu) overthrew me," Brown said. "I just got a burst out of nowhere, and it just fell in my hands. I don't know how I caught the ball. I just stuck out my hands, and it stuck."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
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