OXFORD — Randy Charlton remembers the pain that came when Mississippi State’s 2021 senior class wrapped up its regular season with an Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss.
The Bulldogs lost 31-21 to the Rebels at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, their second consecutive loss to their in-state rivals.
On Saturday, Charlton got his chance to make amends.
He tipped away a shovel pass by Ole Miss quarterback Jaxson Dart, foiling the Rebels’ tying two-point conversion try with 1:25 to play.
“I’ve just worked for this team, and I gave it all for them,” Charlton said.
Charlton said the deflection was simple. Lined up on the outside, he recognized a play Mississippi State runs “24/7” in practice. He saw Dart’s toss to wide receiver Jonathan Mingo up the middle and reached out his right arm, batting the pass away.
The play arrested the Rebels’ momentum after a 15-play, 99-yard drive put them on the precipice of erasing an eight-point deficit.
“I was about to have a heart attack,” running back Dillon Johnson said. “We were down there on the goal line, and we didn’t finish. When we got that stop, it was just a relief for me.”
Johnson said he felt “sick” when quarterback Will Rogers fumbled the football on a keeper at the opposite goal line — seconds after a run on which Johnson felt “100 percent” certain he had scored.
Instead, Rogers fumbled away Mississippi State’s chance to ice the game, and it came down to that two-point play in the southwest end zone.
Ole Miss called two timeouts before the try, leaving it no chance to stop MSU after failing to recover the ensuing onside kick.
The Bulldogs downed the ball three times to seal their first win over the Rebels since 2019.
After the game, coach Mike Leach praised Charlton’s effort in the rivalry victory.
“I just think he’s a big, strong guy and lives in kind of a world of destruction,” Leach said.
The 6-foot-3, 270-pound Charlton transferred to MSU after being kicked off the football team at UCF in 2020.
It was a tough time for the defensive end, but he has fit in well.
Charlton said the Bulldogs’ players, coaches and support staff welcomed him into the fold — so much so that he said Starkville is “really my second home now.”
“Being able to give that win to my team, my boys, my hometown … it was just a great moment,” Charlton said.
It’s a moment whose significance is lost on Charlton — for now.
Asked if he could wrap his head around the meaning of having made one of the most important plays in Egg Bowl history, Charlton’s answer was simple.
“I really didn’t think about it yet,” he said. “You just made me think about it. I might go cry a little bit. It’s a surreal moment.”
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.