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Oklahoma State football: A Mississippi State primer

by Berry Tramel Modified: August 26, 2013 at 5:45 pm •  Published: August 26, 2013

OSU plays Mississippi State on Saturday in Houston, and the Bulldogs have a solid reputation. But very little tradition.

I guess you could say OSU and Miss State are similar — if you took away OSU’s 1976 Big Eight tri-championship, and Barry Sanders’ Heisman Trophy, and the 2011 season that resulted in a Big 12 title and Fiesta Bowl victory.

The truth is, Mississippi State is more like the SEC’s Iowa State. Tries hard, wins some games, but never really factors into any kind of title contention. Here is a primer on Mississippi State’s football history:

Bowl history: The Bulldogs haven’t played in a major bowl since the 1940 season, when they beat Georgetown 14-7 in the Orange Bowl. Mississippi State also played in the Orange Bowl four years earlier, losing to Duquesne 13-12. Since those trips to Miami, Mississippi State has played in 14 bowl games:

1963 Liberty (beat North Carolina State 16-12)

1974 Sun (beat North Carolina 26-24)

1980 Sun (lost to Nebraska 31-17)

1981 Hall of Fame (beat Kansas 10-0)

1991 Liberty (lost to Air Force 38-15)

1992 (season) Peach (lost to North Carolina 21-17)

1994 Peach (lost to North Carolina State 28-24)

1998 Cotton (lost to Texas 38-11)

1999 Peach (beat Clemson 17-7)

2000 Independence (beat Texas A&M 43-41)

2007 Liberty (beat Central Florida 10-3)

2010 Gator (beat Michigan 52-14)

2011 Music City (beat Wake Forest 23-17)

2012 Gator (lost to Northwestern 34-20).

Championships: Mississippi State won the 1941 SEC title with a 4-0-1 record. The Bulldogs won the SEC West Division in 1998 with a 6-2 record but lost to Tennessee 24-14 in the conference title game.

Coaching icons: Mississippi State’s greatest coach ever was Allyn McKeen, who in nine years (1939-48) went 65-19-3, including seasons of 8-2, 10-0-1, 8-1-1 and 8-2 from 1939-42. If you like your icons to be post-World War II, Mississippi State has had some big names who didn’t necessarily do big things in Starkville. Murray Warmath went 5-4 and 5-2-3 in 1952 and 1953, then left for big things at Minnesota. Darrell Royal made his head coaching debut at Mississippi State, going 6-4 in both 1954 and 1955 before leaving for Washington. Wade Walker, who later became OU’s athletic director, spent six years as the Bulldog coach, 1956-61, going 22-32-2. Emory Bellard, who is credited with inventing the wishbone, took over after getting fired at Texas A&M; Bellard went 37-42 from 1979-85. Jackie Sherrill did the same, jumping from A&M to Mississippi State, and going 74-76-2 from 1991-2003. Sylvester Croom was the first black head coach in SEC history; he went 21-38 from 2004-08.

Series history: Mississippi State is 2-2 vs. OSU. The Bulldogs won 14-13 in 1970 in Jackson, Miss., and 29-11 in 1999 in Starkville. OSU won 26-7 in 1971 in Stillwater and 42-23 in 1998 in Stillwater. Yes, a Cowboy team that went 5-6 in 1998 beat the eventual SEC West champion by 19 points.

Cowbells: No one quite knows for sure what started the Mississippi State tradition of fans ringing cowbells. According to legend, a cow wandered onto the field in an early-era game against Ole Miss. Mississippi State won the game, and someone began bringing that cow to every game. Eventually, they settled on just bringing a cowbell.

Famous alums: Author John Grisham, comedian Jerry Clower.

First-round NFL draft picks: 10.

2012: Fletcher Cox, DT, 12th pick, Eagles

2011: Derek Sherrod, OL, 32nd pick, Packers

1996: Walt Harris, DB, 13th pick, Bears

1996: Eric Moulds, WR, 24th pick, Bills

1983: Michael Haddix, RB, 8th pick, Eagles

1982: Johnie Cooks, LB, 2nd pick, Colts

1982: Glen Collins, DE, 26th pick, Bengals

1975: Jimmy Webb, DT, 10th pick, 49ers

1959: Billy Stacy, DB, 3rd pick, Cardinals

1956: Art Davis, DB, 5th pick, Steelers

Consensus all-Americans: 3. Cooks, 1981; Fred Smoots, DB, 2000; Johnthan Banks, DB, 2012.

Biggest win: In 1980, Mississippi State was 6-2 and hosting defending national champion Alabama, which was riding a 28-game winning streak. The Bulldogs beat Bama 6-3, recovering a last-minute fumble at the Mississippi State 3-yard line. It was MSU’s first win over Alabama since 1957.

Biggest upset: In November 1935, Mississippi State was 5-1 and having a nice year, but Southern football had little reputation and MSU was coming off seven straight losing seasons. But Mississippi State went to West Point and stunned mighty Army 13-7.

Biggest rival: Ole Miss. The Egg Bowl (the schools play for an egg-shaped trophy) has been played every year since 1915, other than 1943, when both schools suspended their program for the war. Ole Miss leads 42-61-6.

Nicknames: Mississippi State was known as the Aggies until 1932, when the school switched from Mississippi A&M to Mississippi State College. In 1961, the name became Mississippi State University, and the school adopted “Bulldogs” as the nickname.

Oddity: Mississippi State has a winning record against only one SEC opponent — Vanderbilt (12-7-2).

 

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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