It’s game week: My top five State-USM memories
Mississippi State and Southern Miss will play one another in football for the 29th time Saturday night in Hattiesburg. I’ve seen 27 of the 29. What follow are my top five most vivid memories from the series.
• Nov. 7, 1981, USM 7, State 6. Both teams were nationally ranked and featured so much future NFL talent when they played before more than 64,000 on a gorgeous day at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium. The late, great Orley Hood referred to this one as the “limp off” game because players from both teams limped off the field — or were carried off — on seemingly every play. State corralled future Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer Reggie Collier for the most part, but USM’s defense, led by the un-blockable Jerold Baylis, was equally salty. A fumbled punt proved the difference. I played golf with Reggie Collier recently and he told me, “I couldn’t move after that game; I never got hit that hard, so many times, in my life.”
• Sept. 9, 1989, State 26, USM 23. USM’s Roberts Stadium was packed. Heavily favored USM, led by Brett Favre, was ranked No. 18 and coming off a huge victory over Florida State. The Eagles had won three straight over State and 10 of the last 12. But the Bulldogs got this one and State fans stayed, cheered and clanged their cowbells for a good 30 minutes after the game ended. State defensive coordinator Jim Carmody, a Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer who had been fired as head coach at USM, rode off the field on the shoulders of some of his Bulldog defenders.
• Oct. 7, 1978, USM 22, State 17. State led this one at Hattiesburg 17-0 before Bobby Collins inserted a walk-on running back named Sammy Winder, another future MSHOFer into the game. It was Winder’s coming out party. He ran through tackler after tackler, leading USM to 22 straight points and the victory.
• Oct. 24, 1970, State 51, USM 15. Competitive, no. Memorable, yes. USM had beaten No. 4 Ole Miss 30-14 the week before. On Thursday night, two nights before the State game, USM had an on-campus celebration of the Ole Miss victory when they perhaps should have been thinking about what was to happen in less than 48 hours in Starkville. In retrospect, the outcome was utterly predictable. State wrapped it up in maroon and white from start to finish.
• Sept. 20, 1986: USM 28, State 24. State led 24-21 with under four minutes remaining when USM got the ball at its own 2-yard-line. The late Keith Daniels, USM’s offensive coordinator at the time, called all 18 plays of the drive that ended with Shelton Gandy scoring the winning touchdown. Afterward, an emotionally drained Daniels sobbed as he talked about the winning drive, which really was one of the best these eyes ever witnessed.