Mississippi State Football News: 40 Years Ago Mississippi State Upset #1 Alabama in The Big Maroon Upset

IRVING, TX - NOVEMBER 17: Steve McMichael #76 and Tyrone Keys #98 of the Chicago Bears sack Gary Hogeboom #14 of the Dallas Cowboys as Richard Dent #95 looks on during the game at Texas Stadium on November 17, 1985 in Irving, Texas. The Bears defeated the Cowboys 44-0. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
IRVING, TX - NOVEMBER 17: Steve McMichael #76 and Tyrone Keys #98 of the Chicago Bears sack Gary Hogeboom #14 of the Dallas Cowboys as Richard Dent #95 looks on during the game at Texas Stadium on November 17, 1985 in Irving, Texas. The Bears defeated the Cowboys 44-0. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Mississippi State Football Ended #1 Alabama’s Winning Streak in 1980

The Mississippi State football team (1-3), travels to Tuscaloosa this weekend to face the #2 Alabama Crimson Tide (5-0) in a rivalry game, given the nickname the Battle for Highway 82. Everyone knows this has been a one-sided rivalry with the Tide owning the advantage 81-16-3 and currently on a 12 game winning streak.

Mississippi State Football owns some memorable upsets against Alabama, with the most celebrated one coming in 1980 on its home field. Mississippi State ended Alabama’s 28 game winning streak and it’s own 22 game losing streak to the Tide.

On November 1, 1980, with their backs against the wall, The Mississippi State Bulldogs pulled off a monumental upset. It is a game that is celebrated and remembered as one of the biggest MAROON upsets in Mississippi State Football History. This year also marks the 40th anniversary of that upset.

The Big Maroon Upset

The 1980 Mississippi State Football team was lead by Emory Bellard in his 2nd season. In his first season, the Bulldogs went 3-8. In year two Bellard put together one of the best seasons and teams in Mississippi State Football history. The Bulldogs finished 9-3, highlighted by wins over #18 Miami, LSU, hated rival Ole Miss, and of course, #1 Alabama.

In this game, there were no touchdowns scored and yards were earned at a hard-fought premium. This was definitely a defensive battle for the ages. John Bond lead the Mississippi State offense to two field goals. The two field goals, a 37 yarder and the game-winning 22 yarder, were sent through the uprights by Dana Moore.

The game was not over as Alabama recovered a fumble and desperately needed to score to either take the lead or tie the game.  As Alabama QB Don Jacobs lead his offense down the field, fans held on to their Maroon hopes that the Bulldogs could somehow stop the Tide. With Alabama at the three-yard line, Big #98 Tyrone Keys made a hit that forever put him in the minds and hearts of Bulldog fans past, present, and future.

Who is Tyrone Keys #98?

Tyrone Keys is from Jackson, Mississippi, and played his high school ball at Callaway High School. Keys helped lead Callaway to the 1975 Big 8 Conference Championship (State Championship). Keys played defensive tackle for four years and went on to play on the Bears1985 Super Bowl Championship with another Mississippi native, Walter “Sweetness” Payton. I had the chance to talk with Tyrone about his memories of the 6-3 Bulldog win.

Keys was a 3-Time ALL-SEC selection at Mississippi State and made the game-saving fumble causing tackle to preserve the historic victory over then #1 Alabama, the two-time defending national champion Alabama. The Tide was driving to win what would have been their 29th consecutive game, but the Bulldogs said: NOT TODAY!

Talk about your recruitment out of Callaway and what made you decide to be a Bulldog?

Keys: was named Co DEF MVP with Hugh Green – we both signed with MSU after being recruited by ALA.

Pitt, lead by future Mississippi State Head Coach Jackie Sherrill, after winning a National Championship, came to Mississipi and convinced 3 MSU recruits DL/LB Hugh Green, DB Lynn Thomas, and  RB Rooster Jones to sign with Pitt on NATIONAL SIGNING DAY —

In 7th grade at Callaway Jr High School I met former MSU QB and CFL QB Tommy Pharr who was working at Callaway, he was cool and I began to follow MSU. I would drive to Memorial Stadium and watch the game from the fence.

What was the mentality of the team heading into the matchup with Alabama?

Keys: After losing to USM  42 -14, I went over to Coach Bellard’s office the next morning and apologized. He was disappointed with the way we had played and he said it was going to be up to me and the seniors and how we would like to be remembered. We had a players-only meeting and we made a commitment to run the table.

What was the defensive gameplan employed to keep the Alabama offense in check?

Keys: Coach Bellard told us he would coach the defense side of the ball for the week and Coach Arians (now Tampa Bay Buccaneers HC) would coach the offense.

Glen Collins and Earnest Barnes and Cooks would control the middle – Myself and Billy Jackson and OLB Don Edwards and  Rusty Martin would control the outside sometimes we would change responsibility with each other.

They never knew who had responsibility for the QB or the pitchman. The secondary corners Willie Jackson and Lawence Evans and safeties Larry Friday and Rob Fesmire sometimes had the pitchman

Quotes by former Mississippi State Football Head Coach Emery Bellard on stopping the wishbone offense:

” If you listen to me we will shut down the Wishbone.” “I know how to stop it because I invented the darn thing.” “I have the HORSES and men to do it!”

When you saw Don Jacobs coming your way, what went through your mind?

Keys: I Couldn’t believe he was coming this way again. I was not going to allow him to pitch the ball!

What was it like when Alabama Head Coach Bear Bryant came across the field to congratulate the team?

Keys:  I share this story all the time. Coach Bellard ask the seniors, what kind of legacy we’re going to leave behind. Bear Bryant left a Legacy of class and Sportsmanship, to walk across the field in midst of crazed MSU fans, to come into our lockerroom to salute us was one of the great acts of sportsmanship.

How did you celebrate the victory over Alabama?

Keys: It was the 1st and only football game my Grandmother Ruthanna Jordan attended. My mom said she was screaming,  Get the ball, Tyrone! I must have heard her say, Get the ball, Tyrone! After I celebrated with my parents, family, friends. I then went to celebrate at the home of Odell Jenkins, my high school defensive coach.

How did feel to win this game with Larry Friday on the field with you?

Keys: I Played with Larry starting in the 6th grade, high school, and college. It was very special to win that game with a life long friend. We dreamed of moments like this from being on the field to draft day.

A lot of football fans don’t know the story behind the Shuffling Crew Video, tell us that story.

Keys: We lost to the Dolphins in a similar fashion, a beatdown on MNF at the time the largest audience to watch MNF. On the flight home, we made a commitment to run the table and share with the world by singing about it and donating the money to the charity.

Keeping true to Payton’s lyrics – ” The Bears are doing this to feed the needy not the greedy.”

What are your memories of1985 Bears Defense, the Playoff Run, and Winning the Superbowl and outside of yourself and Payton, were there any other Mississippi natives on that team?

Keys:  The loss to the Dolphins reminded me of the loss to USM and the commitment to run the table. We had shutouts in the playoffs against HOF offenses against the NY Giants (HC Bill Parsells & QB Phill Simms ) and the LA Rams (RB Eric Dickerson). The Patriots had fear in their eyes.

Coach Ditka put me in on the second play of the game and the adrenaline rush was so high. The Patriots went up 3-0 and they didn’t score again until late in the game.

At halftime, it was 23 to 3 and the coaches said they didn’t need to make any adjustments.

The halftime festivities were so long some of us took naps. The final score ended up being 46-10.

Leslie Frazier (now Buffalo Bills DC) who played at Alcorn is from Columbus, MS was also on the 1985 Bears Super Bowl team is a member of the MSHOF

Talk to us about the All Sports Community Service organization you founded, your community service, and just your life after football.

Keys: See the Youtube video Provided by Tyrone Keys

Bulldog fans, you can relive some of Tyrone’s highlights from game and see the moment he caused the fumble to seal the Big Maroon Upset, Courtesy of Youtube User: Tyrone Keys.

Related Story. The Battle for Highway 82. light