OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — The unlikely duo of Jaylen Walton and Jordan Wilkins led Mississippi to a resounding Egg Bowl upset.
Walton had a 91-yard touchdown run and Wilkins, a running back, threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to lead No. 18 Ole Miss over No. 4 Mississippi State 31-17 on Saturday.
Bo Wallace threw for 296 yards despite completing just 13 of 30 passes.
Ole Miss (9-3, 5-3 Southeastern Conference) led 7-3 at halftime before its offense got going in the second half. It’s the 10th time in 11 seasons the home team has won the Egg Bowl.
Wilkins’ touchdown pass to Cody Core — with 9:14 remaining in the game — came on the second throw of his career after a pitch from Wallace, pushing the Rebels ahead by two touchdowns.
The loss by Mississippi State (10-2, 6-2, No. 4 CFP) means Alabama clinched the SEC Western Division. Dak Prescott threw for 282 yards and a touchdown.
It’s the first time both teams came into the Egg Bowl ranked since 1999.
The loss is a severe blow to Mississippi State’s hope of advancing to the inaugural College Football Playoff. De’Runnya Wilson caught eight passes for 117 yards and Fred Ross added six catches for 103 yards, but the Bulldogs were undone by an aggressive Ole Miss offense that wasn’t afraid to take chances.
Walton finished with a career-high 148 yards rushing on just 14 carries. Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram caught five passes for 176 yards
Ole Miss had lost three straight conference games — including last week’s 30-0 setback at Arkansas — before breaking through with a convincing win in the bitter instate rivalry.
“People thought we wouldn’t be up for this game, but it’s the Egg Bowl,” Walton said. “How can you not get up for the Egg Bowl?”
Mississippi State struggled in the first half with just 128 total yards. Prescott never appeared comfortable in the pocket, facing consistent pressure from the Ole Miss defense.
The Rebels came into the game giving up just 13.5 points per game, which ranked No. 1 in the country. Ole Miss lived up to the stats, using a swarming defense to contain Mississippi State’s running game.
But the Rebels’ offense took a while to get going.
Wallace was playing on a sore right ankle that he sprained during last week’s loss to Arkansas. The ankle was heavily taped on Saturday and the injury appeared to slow the velocity on his throws. One promising drive early in the game ended when an errant pass was intercepted in the end zone by Taveze Calhoun.
But the Rebels broke through later in the first quarter on Wallace’s 1-yard touchdown run, which was set up by a 46-yard pass from Wallace to Engram on the previous play.
Mississippi State’s Evan Sobiesk made a career-best 45-yard field goal early in the second quarter, which pulled the Bulldogs within 7-3.
The third quarter didn’t look anything like the first half, with the teams trading long pass completions to set up quick scoring opportunities. Wallace completed an 83-yard pass to Engram — which was the longest for the program since 2008 — to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Jeremy Liggins that gave the Rebels a 14-10 lead.
But it was Walton’s 91-yard run that really gave the Rebels momentum. The play was designed for the 5-foot-8, 166-pounder to run right, but after a few steps he changed directions, shooting through the left side of the line before breaking a few arm tackles and then streaking down the left sideline for the score.
“I made one hard cut to see what I could get,” Walton said. “I remember one guy missed me and then there was nothing there.”
Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP