Mississippi State Avoids Deja-Voodoo

The state of Mississippi is still buzzing about the home state Bulldogs 34-29 win over LSU. Some would wonder what all of the fuss was about, but for long suffering followers of the Maroon and White, a win over the Tigers has been a long time coming. A little forgiveness is in order for those still looking to celebrate a win in a place where Bulldog dreams have gone to die so many times before.

One has to wonder what changed in the Mississippi State/LSU football series.

At one time, State dominated the Tigers, but things have gone the way of the Purple and Gold for well over the last decade.

In the heart of the Big Easy on Bourbon street, tourists can visit one of a handful of voodoo shops.

There are strict instructions not to touch the statues, lest the offender bring bad luck upon himself.

Perhaps a Bulldog of days gone by influenced by the libations of the French quarter failed to follow instructions.

Considering the odd luck Mississippi State has had against the Bayou Bengals, it may be time to send Bully deep into the Atchafalaya swamp to fetch the stuffed Bulldog the old Cajun witch has been needling all of these years late in the fourth quarter.

The 1980s consisted of two five year winning streaks, one for each team.

John Bond, the ultimate Tiger killer, led the Bulldogs to four straight wins as part of a five year Bulldog run from 1980-1984.

The Tigers would take over and win the final five of the decade before the Bulldogs got back on the winning side of things in 1990.

The recent run of dominance from LSU would make the late 80s feel like a lost weekend floating the Bogue Chitto river.

The losing streak to the Tigers began in 1992, a year removed from State's last win in Death Valley.

In 1991, a 5-4 Mississippi State team entered an open date after a hard fought 13-7 loss on the road at #7 Alabama.

With the season on the brink, the team needed a spark.

Coach Jackie Sherrill elected to close practice and install a new wrinkle into the Bulldogs' offensive system.

A Bulldog backfield led by quarterback Sleepy Robinson and running back William Prince seemed to be the perfect combination to run an option style offense in two weeks when the Dawgs visited LSU.

Robinson recounts that the days leading up to the trip to Baton Rouge renewed the Bulldogs' enthusiasm.

"The week before we had a pretty bad outing," said Robinson. "Coach Sherrill was talking about going down to Tiger Stadium and beating the Tigers.

"I remember we had a great week of practice that week and I was normally not a great practice person.

"We wanted to go out there and shock the world and we did."

The Tigers who had prepared for the offensive formations and schemes Watson Brown's offense had shown all season were completely surprised when the Bullies lined up with a loaded backfield.

"Coach (Rick) Trickett did a great job with the offensive line that night. They really blocked well," said Robinson. "Watson Brown called the triple option all night and we just executed all night."

The Bulldogs were victorious that Saturday night, 28-19.

The 1991 Dawgs would win the next week over Ole Miss and earn a trip to the Liberty Bowl.

The Bulldogs would enjoy some bowl trips during the 1990s, but even in the best of seasons wins over LSU were hard to come by.

In 1992, State had to return to Death Valley for the third time in four years, where they fell 24-3. The three points was the lowest scoring total of the season.

The 1993 contest would be a wild one. LSU kicker Matt Huerkamp would miss two short field goals and the Bulldogs would block another Andre LaFleur effort that kept the Bulldogs alive into the second half.

Todd Jordan connected with Kendall Watkins on a touchdown pass that would put State up with just minutes to go.

LSU mounted a drive that stalled inside the Bulldog 15. LaFleur came on and hooked the field goal attempt, but it somehow snuck inside the left upright to give LSU an 18-16 win on the road in Starkville.

1994 featured one of the most controversial plays ever in the series. Sophomore flanker Eddie Kennison elected to field a punt at the goal line where he was met inside the one by two Bulldog defenders.

Kennison was not tackled on the play, but a well meaning official blew his whistle. The Bulldog coverage team stopped and Kennison ran 105 yards for a touchdown and the longest punt return in NCAA history.

State would lose 44-24.

The 1995 contest got off on the right foot as Derrick Taite found Eric Moulds for an 80 yard strike on the Bulldogs' first offensive possession.

LSU had played Texas A&M the week before in a very physical contest that left many of the Tiger backs hurting. No worry for LSU, a young freshman named Kevin Faulk had his coming out party that day rushing for 172 yards in a 34-16 Tiger win.

1996 was another day game in Tiger stadium, but the weather was a huge factor. Sunny skies greeted the Bulldogs, but a tropical type storm rolled in and the deluge was on. Despite the muggy and wet conditions, LSU ran the ball with success and won 28-20 thanks in large part to a Kevin Faulk half back pass to Larry Foster for a score.

A prime time audience watched the 1997 meeting as the series returned to Starkville. The Bulldogs hung in for a while, but had no answer for Cecil Collins who ran at will and became a bit of an overnight sensation as LSU won for the seventh straight time.

The 1998 Mississippi State Bulldogs won the SEC Western Division and played eventual National Champion Tennessee in the SEC title game in Atlanta. The only wart on the State resume was a 41-6 thumping in Baton Rouge that would have been a shutout had Kevin Prentiss not scored on the final possession. To add insult to injury, the extra point was missed.

The 1999 match-up saw the two teams heading in different directions. LSU was already talking coaching change after a less than impressive season under Gerry Dinardo and Mississippi State was 6-0 and riding high with dreams of returning to Atlanta for another crack at the SEC title.

The Tigers meant business and jumped out to a 10-0 lead before a blocked punt led to a Bulldog safety. A Scott Westerfield field goal trimmed the LSU advantage to five as LSU put a scare in the Bulldog faithful in the early going.

Justin Griffith's third quarter touchdown gave State an 11-10 lead. The two point try was no good.

Disaster struck when a Jeff Walker punt was blocked and recovered by LSU in the Mississippi State endzone giving the Tigers another lead 16-11.

The teams would trade punts, before Wayne Madkin led a drive that ate up nearly seven minutes and gave Mississippi State the lead for good when Rod Gibson found his way into the endzone on a 4th and goal from the one.

"Every time we get ready to play LSU, people start calling and texting me," said Gibson. "It means a lot to me that even now after all of these years that people remember that play and that I was a part of something that means a lot to people.

"I was recruiting down at the MRA game against Jackson Academy last week and somebody came up to me and asked me about that play."

While some Tigers still contend that Gibson never crossed the goal line, the scoreboard and record books disagree.

The 2000 game is one that will likely be a bone of contention for Mississippi State fans who had the misfortune of watching it.

LSU tailback LaBrandon Toefield was credited with a touchdown in the early going despite fumbling near the two yard line.

"I remember that play like it was yesterday," said Gibson. "The ball came loose and Eugene Clinton recovered it in the endzone, but they gave him the touchdown."

The Bulldogs had a 31-17 lead late in the game, but saw the Tigers roar back to take a 38-31 lead. State would tie in the final minutes and force overtime, but the Tigers and the night time magic of Death Valley dashed Bulldog hopes once again, 45-38.

The next decade would prove to be a rough one for the Bulldogs with LSU taking all ten contests of the 2000s.

Dan Mullen's first year, 2009, saw the Tigers on the ropes late, but a Chad Jones pass break up of a Tyson Lee jump pass forced a fourth down run that Lee elected to keep rather than pitch to Anthony Dixon, who had a clear path to the endzone.

State was left to wonder what if as the team ended with a 5-7 record and out of the bowl picture.

Mississippi State would string together four straight winning seasons over the next four campaigns, but none of those wins were recorded against LSU.

The streak of Bulldog futility against the Tigers reached 14 games in a row with the last win of any kind against LSU coming in 1999 and the last win in Death Valley in 1991, until this past Saturday.

From the opening bell, Mississippi State took it to the Tigers racing out to a 17-0 lead.

The Bulldog lead held into the fourth quarter, but a veteran of these "magical" games knew to temper his celebration until the final horn had sounded.

"I was watching the game with about 30 people," said 1999 hero Rod Gibson. "I just sat there and I wasn't saying nothing.

"People kept trying to get me to talk, but I knew that something weird was going to happen.

"It's like that every time we play down there. There is just a weird feeling about that place.

"I was glad to see our guys put a good whipping on them, but I was just happy to see us get a win down there for once."

Former Mississippi State quarterback and current Bulldog staffer Sleepy Robinson echoed Gibson's feelings about getting one back for the Maroon and White.

"The morning of the game, Tony James sent me a picture," said Robinson. "I have it in my phone and I sent it to Dak (Prescott).

"I call him Mr. One Five and I told him that 15 had done it one time and it was time for Mr. One Five to go do it too.

"He texted me back and said 'I got you Sleepy' and the rest is history."

Robinson was on the field after the game with emotion all over his face.

Perhaps it was the relief of finally breaking a curse that had hung over the program through the better part of three coaching regimes.

Maybe there was the satisfaction of seeing the Bulldogs win a huge game in a venue that has been especially unkind to Mississippi State.

Certainly those thoughts ran through Robinson's mind, but mainly his exuberance was for the current crop of Bulldogs especially some who sought their college football fortunes across state lines.

"It's more about those guys from Louisiana," said Robinson. "It's about Dak and Dillon Day and Mr. (Josh) Robinson. Those guys were turned down by that program and they came here and believed in us.

"They gave Mississippi State an opportunity and they had the chance to do something special here and they're doing it.

"I lost my mom when I was in college just like Dak did, so I know what he's going through and what all he's been through.

"I am just so happy to see him have the chance to do the same things I did and to see him do something great."

How fitting. A group of stars from the state of Louisiana came to Mississippi and break a spell they never knew existed until they became Bulldogs.

Perhaps the gridiron demons have been exorcised once and for all.

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