Soak it up: It was Magnolia State Saturday
The pundits were calling it “Upset Saturday” in college football.
Not me. It was Mississippi Saturday.
I mean, what would you change?
Nothing at Starkville. The Mississippi State Bulldogs steamrolled the undefeated and No. 6 Texas A&M Aggies. The final score was 48-31, but it wasn’t that close. With Dak Prescott showing that he deserves first-sentence mention in any Heisman Trophy discussion, the Bulldogs did pretty much what they wanted against the Aggies.
The weather was perfect, the atmosphere was electric and the victory was decisive.
You’d change nothing at Oxford, either. (Well, maybe a little in the placekicking game…) The Rebels defeated the No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide 23-17. It was an all-day struggle, but would you really want it any other way? Down 14-3 and with it looking as if Alabama was about to step on the Rebels throats – Lord, how many times have we seen that? — Ole Miss fired back. The Rebels, not the Tide, owned the fourth quarter, outscoring Bama 13-0.
The weather was perfect, the atmosphere was electric and the victory has to be one of the most satisfying since the days of John Howard Vaught.
The State of Mississippi was at center stage in college football Saturday. Mississippi ruled the day.
My ol’ pal Willie Morris, who loved this place as much as anyone, sometimes referred to his home state as “poor ol’ whipped down Mississippi.”
All too often, we have been. Not on this day.
“OK, state of Mississippi,” Kevin Scarbinksky wrote, “this is your chance. Your best chance. Maybe your last chance. To stand up and be counted.”
Kevin’s theme was to enjoy it while we could.
“So bask in this week, Mississippi,” he wrote. “Swim in it. Soak up every last ounce of the positive spotlight shining your way. It’s nice that you get to experience a little hope and promise to replace your familiar doom and gloom. We in the state of Alabama salute you and would like to offer you one bit of neighborly advice. Enjoy this moment while it lasts. It probably won’t.”
But it did, for at least one more week — perhaps more.
For one breezy, October Saturday, Mississippi owned college football. And it wasn’t a fluke in either Starkville or Oxford. These are two rock-solid, well-coached football teams with playmakers, aplenty, on offense and salty defenses.
What State and Ole Miss have succeeded in doing is keeping most of the best high school players in Mississippi within the state boundaries. And nobody should need a history lesson to know how good Mississippi football talent can be.
We are the home to more Pro Football Hall of Famers per capita than any state. We are home to the leading touchdown scorer and pass receiver in NFL history, the leading passer in NFL history, the second leading rusher in NFL history, the total offense leader in NCAA history. And Jerry Rice, Brett Favre, Walter Payton and Steve McNair are just for starters.
In recent years, State and Ole Miss have upgraded training and locker room facilities so that they are equal to any. We don’t have 100,000-seat stadiums — and don’t need them — but the stadiums are attractive, first-class facilities that get as loud as any.
So now the stakes get higher. Ole Miss goes to Texas A&M next Saturday. Undefeated Auburn comes to Starkville. Both the Rebels and Bulldogs should be ranked in the top five or six heading into those showdowns.
Oh, the possibilities….
Hall of Fame coffee table book coming soon…click here.