How Mississippi State Changed the Series with Alabama for a Decade in 1996


The history of Mississippi State and Alabama on the football field is a bit one sided, to say the least. Since Alabama leads the overall series 78-18-3, it’s not surprising that the Crimson Tide has put together a number of long winning streaks against the Bulldogs.

The 1980 6-3 win by the Bulldogs is no doubt the most famous MSU win in the series.  That game ended what was a 22 game Alabama winning streak over Mississippi State.  The Tide followed up that 1980 loss with another long streak of 15 wins over the Bulldogs. Currently Alabama has won seven in a row in the series.

But there was a twelve year period where the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide played even – six wins apiece.   That period began with MSU’s victory in 1996, which is the subject of today’s look back into Mississippi State football history.

The arrival of Jackie Sherrill as MSU’s head coach in 1991 brought a renaissance in the football program, including three bowl games in five years.  But in spite of some close calls, Sherrill had not tasted victory against his alma mater in the first five years of his tenure.  That wasn’t expected to change in 1996, as the 3-5 Bulldogs hosted Gene Stallings’ 8th ranked Crimson Tide.

The Bulldogs drew first blood, scoring on Robert Isaac’s 17 yard TD run, giving them a 7-0 lead after one quarter.  The Tide responded with a TD on the ensuing possession, but later in the quarter, State’s Izell McGill intercepted Freddie Kitchens and returned it deep in Bama territory.  The Bulldogs capitalized three plays later, as Lamont Woodbury made a diving catch of a Derrick Taite pass to put State back on top 14-7.

More from Maroon and White Nation

The Tide added a TD before half but a missed the PAT, giving MSU a 14-13 halftime lead.

Defense was the order of the day in the second half, as neither team could score in the third quarter.  Bama regained the lead with a 42 yard FG in the fourth quarter, but the Bulldogs used a 70 yard pass from Taite to TE  Reginald Kelly to set up Brian Hazelwood with a 39 yard field goal that proved to be the game winner in a 17-16 victory.  Video highlights of the 1996 game are presented here.

Next: Ranking the Hardest Working SEC Coaches

While the Bulldogs finished only 5-6 in 1996, the win over Alabama definitely had a springboard effect on the MSU program.  State would go on to post four consecutive winning seasons and capture the SEC West Championship in 1998, while defeating the Tide in three of those four years.  But it was that first win for Sherrill over Alabama in 1996 that changed the series dynamic for the next decade.

Perhaps a win Saturday over the Tide can have a similar affect on Dan Mullen’s program.