Oct 4, 2014; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs celebrate defeating the Texas A&M Aggies at Davis Wade Stadium. The Bulldogs defeated the Aggies 48-31. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
2014 was a season unlike any other. Reaching #1, being 9-0 – you know the rest. Then it came crashing down with losses in three of the Bulldogs final four games, culminating in a 10-3 record. A very strong season for sure, but one that is viewed as a missed opportunity by many MSU fans. I’d like to urge you to remember those great times you had rather than sulking in the disappointing ones.
So many State fans have commented to me about the Ole Miss game. The Egg Bowl truly is the entire season to many fans – on both sides of the aisle. I think that’s unfortunate. It may just speak to casual football fans who could only name two or three players’ names but want bragging rights over their friends, or perhaps it overtakes more in-depth fans as well since the rivalry hits home much more than any other game. Either way I think it’s short-sided.
I’d like you to forget about the Egg Bowl. It would be one thing if it was a third or fourth straight loss in the series and Ole Miss was breaking away. They aren’t. Dan Mullen is still 4-2 against the Rebels, and MSU finished ahead of them in the SEC West for the FIFTH straight year. The home team won again – for the 13th time in the last 15 meetings. The Dawgs played a very poor game….but that shouldn’t diminish your memory of the 2014 season.
I learned a lesson during the 2004 basketball season. MSU began the year 13-0 and were ranked #20. In came #5 Kentucky for a showdown at the Hump. With Mississippi State football coming off a 2-10 season you can only imagine the excitement on campus. It was a thrilling game that ended in a last second gut-wrenching defeat, 67-66.
As I walked away from Humphrey Coliseum that night I couldn’t help but think about how electric the atmosphere was – unlike anything I’d ever experienced for a basketball game. Those two hours I spent in the student section – the five hours I waited outside the gates before the game – that’s something I’ll never forget. Sure, it would have been incredible to win the game, but the thrill of the moment that was that game is one of the most lasting memories I have of that year. A loss, in just a four loss season.
I knew when Mississippi State beat Auburn on October 11th that it was the moment in time I should cherish. We had just knocked off a top 5 team in a top 5 game on the biggest stage imaginable with CBS and College Gameday on campus. MSU was #1 and we had two weeks to celebrate it. At the time I commented that it felt like winning a national championship, even though I knew there was plenty of work to be done. In the back of my mind I knew the real thing was still a long shot, so I was going to savor this moment in time.
As the weeks went by, MSU was still #1. The feeling became more normal instead of the dream-like state of mid-October. Then the Alabama loss, and the Ole Miss loss too. For many fans who are prisoner to whatever moment they are currently in, the season was not a success. Adding in an Orange Bowl loss has soured many to the point of calling it no better than 2012.
That is absurd to me – that season featured nothing more than wins over mediocre teams and little was accomplished. 2014 saw Mississippi State put on the national stage. For several weeks we were the top selling college brand in America. MSU was all over ESPN and every other sports media outlet. Never before has that happened – it was a season for the ages, no matter how it ended.
Most likely, as the years go on, you’ll remember the best of times. Whether for you it’s beating LSU in Death Valley, the Texas A&M game, Auburn or what have you. Psychologists call it “rosie retrospection”. But right now, don’t let yourself become a prisoner of the moment and feel just ‘okay’ about 2014. Pick out that moment that was so special to you – because I know there was one among so many, and chose to remember that as the shining light in the 2014 season.
The moment in time where you, at least for a few weeks, were able to be as proud as you could possibly be to be a Bulldog. The moment when you knew your kids would forever be loyal to the maroon and white. The moment of pure exhilaration over that long-awaited victory you’ve craved. That moment when Mississippi State football became more than you ever thought possible – that is what happened in 2014, and it’s what you need to remember.