The Rebels (9-2, 5-2 SEC) just wrapped up their second undefeated home slate in three years with a 35-3 win over Louisiana-Monroe, improving to 19-2 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium over that period.
During last season's Egg Bowl in Oxford, Ole Miss trailed by eight points late. Ole Miss drove 99 yards down the field, and Dayton Wade caught a 23-yard touchdown with 1:25 to play and gave the Rebels a chance to tie the game with a successful two-point try. The try failed, however, as did the ensuing onside kick attempt, and the Rebels fell 24-22 at home.
That was 360 days ago. And the way that game went still eats at Ole Miss' junior signal caller.
"That game has ate at me ever since we walked off that field. And it's a game that I really want back," Dart said. "I know the guys on the team feel the exact same way about it, and we can't wait for the opportunity to play in it."
The Egg Bowl is always filled to the brim with emotions, and this year will be no different, despite the vastly different circumstances each team finds itself in. The Rebels are on the verge of their second 10-win regular season in program history, a feat only the 2021 team has achieved. Coincidentally, that team sealed history with a win in Starkville. The 2021 Rebels went to a New Year's Six Game, and the 2023 version of the team will have a chance at a marquee bowl game as well. A win in the Egg Bowl and bowl game would give the program its first ever 11-win season.
Mississippi State's season has been bumpier, having fired first-year head coach Zach Arnett last week after a 4-6 start to the 2023 season. Now standing 5-6 following a win over Southern Miss, Mississippi State is fighting for its postseason life Thursday night in an attempt to notch that crucial sixth victory.
Dart understands the Egg Bowl is a season-defining game regardless of how each team is doing in a given year. He also knows that he and his teammates can't let emotions get the best of them, despite everything at stake.
"We have to be ten toes down and be where our feet are. We have to make sure that we don't get too high or too low," Dart said. "It's funny, because when you go out to The Square or out of town, people tell you, 'We don't care if you don't win any other game. We just care that you win the Egg Bowl.' We understand the importance of it, and we are excited to go to Starkville and compete."