It was a long 4th and 24 in the final minute of the Egg Bowl between Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Ole Miss converted. Broken coverage by Mississippi State allowed Braylon Sanders to get behind the defense and set up one of the most memorable finishes in college football this season.
With 4 seconds left on the clock, wide receiver Elijah Moore caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Corral. The score now 21-20, Ole Miss’ usually sure-footed kicker Luke Logan was about to knock in the extra point and send the game into overtime.
Before the kicking team could take the field, Moore decided to crawl to the back of the end zone, lift his leg, and imitate a dog peeing. This selfish display cost the Rebels a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, pushing a routine extra point into a 28-yard attempt, which Logan ultimately missed.
Moore has received national disdain for his act. It was selfish, undisciplined, and it ultimately cost his team the game.
But Moore was not the biggest dog on Friday night. That honor goes to Mississippi State Bulldog head coach Joe Moorhead. The selfishness and lack of discipline Moorhead showed at his postgame press conference outweighs the actions of Elijah Moore.
People had been calling for his job in recent weeks, and it seems that the old ball coach was more concerned with himself than his players.
“This is my school, this is my team, this is my program… you’ll have to drag my Yankee ass out of here,” was the highlight of his dogged attempt to secure a job.
He pushed the narrative that “if you ask who [the players] think is the right man for the job… they’ll tell you it’s me.”
When thrown a softball question about stopping the Ole Miss rushing attack he took another opportunity to acknowledge himself. “That was great planning,” he said, as though linebackers Tim Washington and 4-year starter Leo Lewis had nothing to do with corralling the Rebel ball carriers.
Ole Miss should never have been in position to win. They were backed into a 4th and 24 situation with less than a minute on the clock. Moorhead misstepped again in his explanation of the final drive. “We couldn’t have had more of a prevent defense,” he said, then went on to identify that they were playing 3 deep coverage, with no ownership of any execution errors.
Prevent coverage has one core principle: no receiver can get behind the safeties. Ole Miss ran two vertical routes down the right side of the field – a basic route combo in this situation – and Braylon Sanders was wide open. The Mississippi State defensive scheme had been beaten, and Ole Miss capitalized to keep the drive alive. This breakdown would eventually lead to 6 points and almost cost the Bulldogs the game.
Moorhead, the 46-year-old professional, could have shown humility, recognizing that his defense could not stop the Rebels on their final drive. He could have given credit to his players and a nod to the opposing coaches.
He could have behaved more like Matt Luke, the Ole Miss head coach who acknowledged “disappointment” in Moore’s actions, recognizing that those displays of selfishness do not reflect their program, or the young man. He noted that Moore “got caught up in the moment,” but that the Rebels are “going to get through this together.”
Elijah Moore, the 19-year-old college student, was selfish, undisciplined, and fell victim to the moment. That moment saved Joe Moorhead’s job.
Maybe now he can focus on his team.