Oxford, Miss. — Mississippi's quarterback had a hurt ankle and its two top receivers were out with leg injuries.
The offensive line was mostly a mess, with players constantly shifting spots because of injuries or ineffective play.
And despite all that, the Rebels managed to play their best game of the season.
The unlikely duo of Jaylen Walton and Jordan Wilkins — along with coach Hugh Freeze's deep dive into the playbook — pushed No. 18 Ole Miss to a convincing 31-17 victory over No. 4 Mississippi State on Saturday in the Egg Bowl.
"I was willing to throw everything we had at them," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. "And we had some more if we needed it."
The most surprising moment came when Wilkins, a freshman running back, took a pitch from Bo Wallace and then threw a perfect 31-yard touchdown pass to Cody Core that gave the Rebels a 31-17 lead with 9:14 remaining. It proved to be an insurmountable margin for Mississippi State.
It was just the second throw of Wilkins' career.
Walton had a 91-yard touchdown run and had a career-high 148 yards rushing on 14 carries.
Wallace threw for 296 yards despite completing just 13 of 30 passes. He sprained his ankle in last week's loss to Arkansas and wasn't moving very well on Saturday. But he made enough plays to help the Rebels win the Egg Bowl for the second time in his three seasons as the starter.
"I knew this game would define my legacy," Wallace said. "I had to win this game to be remembered like I want. … I hope they'll remember as a guy who gave his all ever single game and won a lot of games."
Ole Miss (9-3, 5-3 Southeastern Conference) led 7-3 at halftime before its offense got going in the second half and finished with 532 yards. It's the 10th time in 11 seasons the home team has won the Egg Bowl.
"It wasn't about us spoiling the year for them as much as reclaiming what we think is ours," Freeze said. "(Mississippi State) had a good season in a great league."
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.
"This is as tough as it gets," Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. "I do not care about the stakes. This game is for bragging right in the state. It is the most important game we play. So it is obviously a devastating loss."
A bad day got even worse after the game. Part of the Mississippi State football team was involved in a bus crash following the team's loss. Mississippi State spokesman Kyle Niblett said there were no injuries in the accident that happened shortly after the Bulldogs left Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Niblett said the five-bus caravan was waiting on the side of the road while a replacement bus was sent to the scene.
As for the game, Mullen said there was "plenty of blame to go around" but saved the brunt of his criticism for the defense.
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.
"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?"
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.
One promising early drive ended when Wallace's errant pass was intercepted in the end zone by Taveze Calhoun. But it was one of the few mistakes the senior made. His 1-yard run late in the first quarter helped the Rebels take a 7-3 lead into halftime.
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 streaking down the left sideline for the score and a 24-10 lead.
"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."
(At) No. 1 Florida State 24, Florida 19
Dalvin Cook ran for a career-high 144 yards and No. 1 Florida State survived Jameis Winston's struggles to beat Florida in Will Muschamp's final game as the Gators' coach.
The defending national champion Seminoles have won 28 games in a row, and completed consecutive undefeated regular seasons for the first time in school history. Florida State is the 16th team to accomplish the feat since 1950.
The Seminoles (12-0, No. 3 CFP) will face Georgia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game Dec. 6.
Winston threw a career-high four interceptions, including three in the first quarter. He finished 12-of-24 for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Nick O'Leary had two second-quarter touchdown catches to give Florida State a 21-9 lead.
The Gators (6-5) jumped out to a 9-0 lead, but the offense struggled. Treon Harris threw for 169 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Florida's Austin Harder missed two second-half field goals that would have given the Gators the lead.
No. 3 Oregon 47, (at) Oregon State 19
Marcus Mariota threw for 367 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 39 yards and two more scores to lead Oregon to blowout victory in the 118th Civil War game.
Oregon (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12, No. 2 CFP) will face Arizona in the Pac-12 championship game Friday at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
Freshman Royce Freeman ran for 135 yards and also caught one of Mariota's touchdown passes. Fellow freshman Charles Nelson caught two passes — both touchdowns — for 56 yards, and Byron Marshall had six catches for 131 yards and a score.
It was Oregon's seventh straight win overall and seventh in the series against the rival Beavers (5-7, 2-7), who lost six of their last seven games and failed to become bowl eligible.
No. 5 Baylor 48, Texas Tech 46 (at Arlington)
Bryce Petty threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns before getting knocked out of the game with a concussion and playoff hopeful Baylor held off Texas Tech.
Shock Linwood ran for 158 yards and two touchdowns for the Bears (10-1, 7-1 Big 12, No. 7 CFP), who are guaranteed at least a share of their second consecutive conference title if they win at home over No. 11 Kansas State next Saturday.
The Bears are also hoping for a much bigger prize, but the close game against Texas Tech (4-8, 2-7) likely won't help in that quest. They were already two playoff ranking spots behind Big 12 co-leader TCU, which is coming off an impressive 48-10 Thanksgiving night romp at Texas.
Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes set a Big 12 freshman record with his 593 yards passing that included six touchdowns, the last with 1:42 left before getting sacked on a two-point try.
No. 16 Georgia Tech 30, (at) No. 8 Georgia 24 (OT)
Harrison Butker kicked a career-long 53-yard field goal on the final play of regulation, and D.J. White picked off a pass in overtime to preserve Georgia Tech's victory over Georgia.
Georgia Tech (10-2, CFP No. 16) trailed 24-21 after Hutson Mason threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Malcolm Mitchell on fourth down with 18 seconds left. But the Yellow Jackets wound up with good field position after a squib kickoff, Justin Thomas scrambled 21 yards into field goal range, and Butker's kick barely cleared the crossbar.
Zach Laskey put Georgia Tech ahead with his third touchdown run of the game in overtime, but Butker's extra point was blocked. The Bulldogs (9-3, CFP No. 9) had a chance to win it as they faced second-and-goal at the 9.
Mason again tried to hit Mitchell on a quick slant. This time, White stepped in to make the interception, ending a game that featured a bit of everything.
(At) No. 11 Kansas State 51, Kansas 13
Jake Waters threw for 294 yards and four touchdowns, two of them to record-setting wide receiver Tyler Lockett, and Kansas State routed Kansas to move into a tie atop the Big 12 standings.
Lockett caught nine passes for 119 yards, passing father Kevin Lockett for the school record in career catches and matching his mark for touchdown receptions. Lockett has 222 catches and 26 TD grabs heading into next week's showdown at fifth-ranked Baylor.
Kansas State (9-2, No. 12 CFP) moved into a tie with TCU and Baylor at 7-1 in the conference.
Curry Sexton added nine catches for 141 yards and a score, and Waters and Charles Jones each had touchdown runs as the Wildcats beat the Jayhawks (3-9, 1-8) for the sixth straight time.
(At) No. 23 Clemson 35, South Carolina 17
Artavis Scott had two long touchdown catches, Wayne Gallman ran for 191 yards and Clemson ended a five-game losing streak to rival South Carolina.
The Tigers (9-3) hadn't beaten the Gamecocks (6-6) since 2008, an unprecedented run of failure that overshadowed their 32-8 record the past three seasons. This time, Clemson showed off a perked up offense bolstered by the return of freshman starter Deshaun Watson at quarterback.
Watson threw two inside flip passes that Scott turned into touchdowns of 53 and 70 yards. The second one gave the Tigers a 28-10 lead that South Carolina couldn't overcome.
Watson finished 14 of 19 for 269 yards and two rushing TDs in first significant action since defeating North Carolina State on Oct. 4. Scott had seven catches for 185 yards.
(At) No. 14 Louisville 44, Kentucky 10
Brandon Radcliff ran 4 yards for a touchdown with 2:47 remaining and safety Gerod Holliman had an NCAA record-tying 14th interception with 35 seconds left, helping Louisville beat Kentucky.
No lead was safe in a back-and-forth game between rivals that got physical before kickoff. Louisville coach Bobby Petrino grabbed the jacket of Wildcats assistant Daniel Berezowitz during one pregame scuffle.
The game was equally as charged. There were four fourth-quarter lead changes alone. The Cardinals (9-3) ultimately got the last word by driving 81 yards for the winning score that capped their fourth and final comeback against the Wildcats (5-7).
Kentucky's last possession ended with Holliman picking off Patrick Towles and returning it 65 yards to the 2 before Louisville ran out the clock and sparked a celebration.