Mississippi had the spotlight focused on it in the world of college football on October 4th. It was noted all week long by numerous media outlets. A sometimes subtle, sometimes overt, undertone to how great it was for Mississippi to get the spotlight was that Mississippi has a less than stellar past when it comes to lots of things, the most obvious being our racial issues. So yes, our state doesn’t always do so well when the lights shine upon it. And the lights were going to be really bright all day long. As excited as many were, there was some nervousness that Mississippi State and Ole Miss might get embarrassed on the football field.
The naysayers got proved wrong. Big time.
The pregame festivities for both schools started early. SEC Nation brought their pomp and circumstance to Starkville in advance of their game with Texas A&M. Over in Oxford, Ole Miss had coveted having College Gameday in town ever since the show started showing up on campuses so many years ago. For all intensive purposes, both schools exceeded the expectations either show had of the towns they were visiting. Then Katy Perry stole the show and pulled out a corn dog and a platter of corn dogs when talking about the LSU game. As great as that was, the games still had to be played.
Mississippi State took the stage first and people had Prisoner of the Moment syndrome going in full effect. Texas A&M drove down the field in less than two minutes on the opening possession and scored easily. A bunch of people started tweeting stuff about how that was just too easy. This was my favorite.
With Ole Miss fans watching A&M-MS State in The Grove. “This is a (expletive) blowout,” dude said. “Why are we even watching this game?”
— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) October 4, 2014
Why people assume one possession is going to decide a game is beyond me. So what happens next? Dak happens.
Dak Prescott proved in the LSU game that the Dark Horse Heisman talk wasn’t silly in his game against LSU. In the game against Texas A&M, he planted himself squarely in the mix as one of the frontrunners. After the opening drive, Mississippi State desperately needed an answer. They get some help in the form of a defensive hold on third down to keep the drive alive. He then drove the field and Josh Robinson punched it in. They are as dynamic of a duo as there has ever been at Mississippi State. Then the defense showed the talk about this unit was legit as well.
People who didn’t watch the game are going to look at the stat sheet and say that the defense was terrible. That also proves why you have to actually watch the games to properly evaluate teams. Mississippi State’s defense gave Kenny Hill fits all day long. He never got comfortable after that opening drive, and was forced into three interceptions, all by linebacker Richie Brown. The stats got padded for A&M on some late game meaning less touchdowns when even the high powered Texas A&M offense couldn’t even catch up.
While the defense was showing out, Dak Prescott was becoming a superstar. He completed 19/25 passes for 259 yards and 2 touchdowns. Prescott added 77 more yards on the ground and three touchdowns in which he just overpowered the Aggies’ defense to get into the endzone. People thought Mississippi State was silly for believing that we had a Heisman worthy quarterback playing for us, but now even the greatest of skeptics are coming around. The Bulldogs thrashed the Aggies, and Mississippi was showing that we don’t always buckle when the lights get bright.
As the Mississippi State game was winding down, the attention was turned to Oxford. Ole Miss got off to an early 3-0 lead and things slowed down considerably. Bama finally got on the scoreboard late in the first half with a Sims goal line touchdown run to put the Tide up 7-3. It was the first time Ole Miss trailed all season. Ole Miss then got the ball back, and one of the worst things that could have happened to the Rebels happened. A pitch to an Ole Miss running back was met in the backfield by the Bama defense who clearly got a piece of the running back’s facemask which caused him to fumble. Alabama recovered and ran the ball into the end zone for a 14-3 lead on a clearly blown call.
This is when the Rebels could have folded. This is when everyone expected them to wilt in the face of adversity. To their credit, they didn’t. The Rebels seemed to rally around the adversity in the second half. They never gave in and finally took the lead with about three minutes left to play at 23-17. A missed extra point on the go ahead touchdown led to some anxious moments in Oxford, especially when the Tide started to drive on their final possession. A bad decision and acrobatic interception by Golson would seal the win for the Rebels and finish the greatest day of college football the state has ever known.
For one day, Mississippi State and Ole Miss fans seemed to put aside our bickering about who is the best team in the state and how much one team is better than the other. If you were a fan of either team, you couldn’t help but appreciate what the performance that both teams gave meant to this state. It won’t last, that is just the nature of rivalries. But Mississippi was celebrated all over the country, and it’s because both schools proved a lot of people wrong yesterday.
People will continue to make jokes at the expense of our state. It’s what people do. But Saturday helped break some stereotypes. Both Mississippi schools in the SEC have long been labeled as not having a chance to compete, simply because of budgets and fan bases. The story of Mississippi is one of pain and disappointment. Mississippi State and Ole Miss rewrote everything you thought you knew about us in an eight hour span.