Dayton Wade is from Atlanta and was unfamiliar with the Ole Miss-Mississippi State rivalry that is the Egg Bowl.
That was until a couple plays into last year’s game for his first experience of the Thanksgiving tradition. Now, Wade is fully aware of what this game means to the state and the 365-days of bragging rights that come along with it.
Thursday in Starkville presents the next chapter in this game as No. 13 Ole Miss (9-2, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) looks to keep its chase for history alive while the Bulldogs (5-6, 1-6) are trying to earn the right to play one more game after this week.
Wade will be playing in his second Egg Bowl but after being fully initiated a year ago he knows what to expect when he takes the field inside Davis-Wade Stadium.
“Last year I didn’t really know how deep the rivalry was,” Wade said on Monday. “It kind of caught me off guard at first. Once I realized what it meant it made me switch it to another gear.
“It’s a rivalry. It’s backyard. It’s backyard boys.”
The intensity does ratchet up to 11 when the Rebels and Bulldogs close out the regular season and this year should be no different.
Cedric Johnson is from Alabama but is about to play in his fourth Egg Bowl and knows what it means for the Mississippi natives on the Ole Miss roster.
“We got a lot of guys from Mississippi and I know like some guys may feel like this is the only game that matters to them out of the whole season,” Johnson said. “This game, got to win. This one we got to win.
“I think just never knowing what to expect, really. It could always be something different. Got fans fighting. You got teammates fighting, from what I’ve seen, in previous years. Got extra celebrations that we don’t plan on doing ever again.”
The emotion is going to be there for Ole Miss when this game rolls around but the coaching staff is not leaning it in practice.
Lane Kiffin is about to take part in his fourth Egg Bowl and is 2-1 against Mississippi State.
With the quick turnaround of playing ULM this past Saturday and then a second game five days later Kiffin has kept the focus on game planning for the opponent more so than fueling the fire of emotions.
In fact Kiffin did something he self-described as “unusual” and started preparing for the Bulldogs while still game planning for the ULM game. A potential lesson learned from last three years.
“We just got to prepare really well and play really well,” Kiffin said. “We don’t really build it up and do different things and I don’t worry too much about them being too excited for it because in this day and age a lot of the guys haven’t been a part of this rivalry. Which sometimes can be good, too. Not too be overly excited and get penalties and do things we don’t normally do.”