Past greats carry us in the present

By RICK CLEVELAND,

So that final score, this past Saturday: State of Alabama 115, State of Mississippi 13. All together now Mississippians: “Ouch!”

Auburn clocked Mississippi State 49-10. Alabama embarrassed Ole Miss 66-3, the largest margin of victory in the 123-year history of that series. Makes most of us on this side of the border wish for a year, like, say 2014. Remember? On October 4, 2014, Ole Miss defeated Alabama 23-17 to soar to No. 3 in the national rankings. A week later, State raced past Auburn 38-23 to vault to No. 1.

That was just three years ago when State was the top team in the country for four consecutive weeks. Ole Miss was as high as No. 3 for three straight weeks. This past Saturday night, three years seemed like a lifetime. Perhaps with that in mind, we should also remember how it all that 2014 Mississippi bliss came to an end. The Alabama teams rudely pinched the Mississippi teams on the arm – that’s how. On November 4, Auburn went to Oxford and handed the Rebels a most excruciating 35-31 loss. On November 11, Mississippi State went to Tuscaloosa was beaten 25-20.

Sad to say, the Alabama teams have long had our number. In games dating back to 1894, Alabama leads Ole Miss 54-10-2. In games dating back to 1905, Auburn leads Mississippi State 63-26-2.

When they switch foes, the results aren’t any better for the Magnolia Staters. Alabama leads State 79-18-3 in the series sometimes called the Battle for Highway 82. With few exceptions it has pretty much been a one-way street. Auburn leads Ole Miss 30-11. Too many Auburn-Ole Miss games have been like the one in 1985 when the Tigers waltzed 41-0 and even Bo Jackson became so bored he fell asleep on the bench. Ole Miss managed but two first downs in that game. Auburn got 39.

Not to bog you down in numbers, but Alabama’s two SEC teams lead Mississippi’s two SEC teams 226-65-7. Again, ouch!

 

You want in, Southern Miss? Alabama leads you 34-6-2. Auburn leads you 17-5. Hate to bring this up following the Golden Eagles’ deflating ,43-28 loss to North Texas last week, but USM starts playing Auburn again in 2018 and plays Alabama again in 2019. We can safely say those are predicted ouches.

There’s a reason why goal posts often come down when one of the Mississippi teams beats one of the Alabama teams, which is something to keep in mind when Auburn comes to Ole Miss this week and Alabama comes to Scott Field November 11.

Just for kicks, why not remember a few of those rare celebrative Mississippi moments during the week after the 115 to 13 debacle?

October 4, 2014: On a glorious fall afternoon, with ESPN Gameday parked in The Grove, Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace had his finest hour as a Rebel. Actually, it was more like three and a half hours, the first of which wasn’t so fine. No. 1 ranked Alabama, which had beaten Ole Miss 10 straight times, led 14-3 at halftime. Bama usually wears people down in the second half. Not this time. Ole Miss outscored the Tide 20-3 for a 23-17 victory. Wallace, who threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns, saved his best for last. He completed his final three passes, including two for touchdowns. And then when Senquez Golson sealed the deal with an interception in the end zone, Ole Miss fans flooded the field for a wild celebration that ended with goal posts headed toward the Oxford Square.

 

October 11, 2014: How many times has a victory elevated Mississippi State to the position of No. 1 in the nation. Just once, that’s how many. It took a special player playing a most special game. Dak Prescott threw for 246 yards and a touchdown and ran for 121 yards and two more touchdowns, making play after play when the Bulldogs needed them most. State jumped to a 21-0 lead, withstood a predictable Auburn rally, and then closed strong. State fans, surely sensing the Bulldogs were about to vault to No. 1, stayed long afterward, danced, rang cowbells and celebrated with State players in the stands. No, they didn’t tear down the goal posts. Ole Miss had done that the week before. State’s message was that they had bigger fish to fry. Unfortunately, a few weeks later, Alabama did the frying, instead.

September 18, 1953: Pie Vann’s Mississippi Southern College team, a small college powerhouse, opened the season against powerful Alabama, which would win the SEC championship and play in the Cotton Bowl. The Crimson Tide, No. 5 to open the season, was picked by Grantland Rice to win the national championship. The Southerners, quarterbacked by future Major League baseball star Jim Davenport, stunned the Crimson Tide, quarterbacked by future Hall of Famer Bart Starr. Davenport, Vann and Hamp Cook, who sacked Starr on the last play of the game, are all Mississippi Sports Hall of Famers. The goal posts that night wound up in Southern’s Montgomery hotel amid a wild celebration. Said Cook, “They marched those posts right through the lobby. Amazingly, nobody got hurt.”

Rick Cleveland (rcleveland@mississippitoday.org) is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist. Follow him on twitter at @rick_cleveland.

 

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