There weren't many who gave the Mississippi State Bulldogs much of a chance to defeat the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide, led by legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, in 1980.
The mere presence of Bryant leaning upon the goalpost prior to games was enough to intimidate opponents, which was often the case during the incredible stretch Alabama enjoyed in those days.
However, Mississippi State had a pretty good football team too and was led by coach Emory Bellard, the father of the wishbone offense, quarterback John Bond and linebacker Billy Jackson.
Even though the offense had its moments against the Tide on Nov. 1, 1980 in Jackson, it was the defense that kept the Bulldogs in the game as they went on to record the a 6-3 upset. "Bulldogs recover, Bulldogs recover, Bulldogs recover," were the words of radio broadcaster Jack Cristil when Jackson came up with the fumble preserving the win.
There have been some proud moments for MSU football since then, including being able to play for the Southeastern Conference Championship in 1998, but that victory over Alabama has to rank as the greatest in school history.
Even in my teenage years, when being a follower of sports was far from my mind, there was an understanding that something big had just happened. In many ways, that triggered my love and appreciation for what sports can mean for a small college town such as Starkville.
Fast forward 32 years, the Bulldogs are in a position to do something special once again.
It's going to take a patient effort out of MSU if it's to stay in the game against mighty Alabama. Like it or not, the Tide deserves their top-ranking to this point and they are the defending national champions, just like they were in 1980.
The Bulldogs are going to need a strong defensive effort. If MSU allows Alabama to jump out to a big lead early, then it's going to be very difficult for the visitors.
Running back LaDarius Perkins and the offensive line are going to be key for the Bulldogs. Teams have not rushed the football with any success against the Tide this season, but MSU has to try and run, then take its shots down the field with the passing game at the right time.
Even if the Bulldogs get into second-and-long and third-and-long situations against the Tide, they can't be too quick to abandon the running game.
The support from MSU students, fans and alumni have been unbelievable this week and especially the last couple of days with the emergence of the "We Believe" signs and banners.
It doesn't matter what the oddsmakers say, and right now they have the Bulldogs as a 24-point underdog, games are decided on the field.
Can Mississippi State defeat Alabama? My thought on the matter is the Bulldogs were able to get the job done in 1980 when nobody expected them to.
Who's to say that can't happen again?
Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.
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