Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss reclaimed the Egg Bowl trophy on Thursday night after a 17-7 win over Mississippi State.

It was a defensive battle, which Ole Miss isn’t used to. Kiffin liked the way his defense stepped up and controlled Mississippi State for the most part.

“I thought our guys played great defense basically the whole night,” Kiffin said in his post game press conference. “Played really well in the second half running the football and then ended the game running the ball. That’s really good to see. We put ourselves in a lot of poor positions by punt, but we were playing to our defense at times and being conservative because we thought that was a good matchup during the game. Once the game got going, really felt that way.”

While Kiffin was excited to get the trophy back, he reflected on how this year’s game was different after Mike Leach’s death last year.

“Excited to get the trophy back,” Kiffin said. “That was really painful last year to lose that. Kind of thought maybe that, if you’re ever gonna lose it, that once we learned later on that was Coach Leach’s last game that maybe that was meant to be. I miss him, I missed him today and we’ll never forget him. I’m glad that we got it back to us, where we hope to keep it for a while.”

The win marked the second time Kiffin has reached 10 wins in his time at Ole Miss. He’s managed to put together a solid team using the transfer portal, and he credited his players for their ability gel together.

“Just really proud of the guys coming together. That’s not easy,” Kiffin said. “Whatever it is, about half of our significant players are new, portal guys and that’s a credit for them to gel together. That doesn’t always work or else everybody would just sign all portal guys.”

Now Kiffin is on the brink of reaching a New Year’s 6 bowl game. He made his pitch for why he thinks his team deserves to make one.

“I think this one’s a pretty good argument where you went 10-2, super hard schedule, even non-conference people for the most part played well,” Kiffin said. “But your 2 losses are at Alabama and Georgia — the 2 people going to the SEC, playing as well as anybody in the country — at their place. I’d like to see the other 10-2 people and their losses and I would doubt their losses are going to be harder ones than those 2 places to play.”