Our story begins on a cold day in late December, 2007. There is excitement overflowing in the barbeque and hot wing-filled air swirling around the Liberty Bowl parking lot. Sure, it's Memphis, and sure, it's only Central Florida, but to these fans, and to this team, it's so much more.
The early 2000s had been a rough decade for Mississippi State football. Stricken by scandal and an absurd amount of losing, the program seemed to be stuck in low gear, destined to stay a football dormat forever. But all that would change in 2007, as the Bulldogs, led by offensive innovator Sylvester Croom, shook off a season-opening 45-0 loss to the LSU Tigers to put together a seven win regular season, and a berth in the Liberty Bowl. The Bulldogs would go on to win that bowl game as well, and as early 2008 turned into late summer, the preseason excitement surrounding the program had reached a level not seen since 2001.
But the excitement would all be for naught, as the Bulldogs' hopes of a magical season were quickly derailed with a 22-14 loss to Louisiana Tech in Ruston to start the season. Even though that felt like a low point for the Bulldogs, things would become much lower.
That valley -- that place where no college football fan wants to find his or herself -- turned out to be a September 13, 2008 home game against the #9 Auburn Tigers. With the Bulldogs now well out of the top 25, their focus had turned to playing the role of spoiler. The only thing spoiled that night, however, were MSU (and Auburn) fans' beliefs that it was, in fact, legal to score points. MSU fan John Will Endure recounts the horrific night; the night where offense was nowhere to be found:
"It just never stopped Tom. I mean you kept watching and you kept hoping that someone, anyone would reach the endzone, but they never did. It was horrifying. I still to this day have nightmares about it. Sometimes if my kids come home from a game and say "daddy, why couldn't State manufacture more than 28 points?" Then I tell them; I sit them down and I make them watch the replay, because I think, well, I thought, that it was important that they learn how good they have it. Now both my children are in extensive therapy. Beth is fine, but Tim... [wipes tear], we're still not sure if Tim is going to make it yet."
The 3-2 game that fateful September night deeply scarred so many of those in attendance that the University had to setup an emergency crisis shelter in the tailgating area just outside the stadium following the game. The shelter was filled with grief counselors from all across the area. Sherry McMillon was one of those volunteers:
I remember how awful it was. The screams. The constant calling out of "WHERE'S THE OFFENSE?!", the cries. Many of the fans were forced to stay overnight and most couldn't sleep. I remember this one man, he came to me; he came to me and he just kept saying "why haven't they crossed the 50 yet? It's not illegal. Someone should tell them that:" He truly was in a state of shock.
After that loss, the season would go on to be much worse, capped off by a humiliating 45-0 loss to Ole Miss in the annual Egg Bowl rivalry game. Even despite all the horrific events and box scores that followed that September game, MSU knew that because of that game and that game alone, they would have to make a change.
That change would come in the form of Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen. Mullen would come in and slowly help aide the healing process with all the MSU fans on the scene for that devastating Auburn game in 2008. But it wasn't until New Year's Day 2011 until the MSU fanbase finally got the breakthrough it had needed so desperately.
"I remember, MSU was invited to play in the Gator Bowl that New Year's, and we knew it was against a Big Ten team," MSU President Mark Keenum said. "We knew that if we could gather together as many of our fans as we could and get them all to Jacksonville, then they might could witness first-hand an offensive explosion, and the healing process would be complete. Boy did we turn out to be right."
Right they were, as the Bulldogs would go on to demolish a haggard Michigan Wolverines team to the tune of 52-14. As the game moved late into the third quarter, cries of "We can score! We can make lots of points in a game!" could be heard throughout the maroon and white clad portion of Everbank Field. Babies laughed. Husbands held their wives close. Cowbells clanked together like farmer's edition fist bumps. The Bulldogs had found their way back from that dark valley of no offense, and even though their team has scored many points many times since that day five years ago, the Bulldog faithful and football program keep with them the memory of that September 2008 night, so that they may learn from their history, never to repeat it.
Tom Rinaldi, ESPN
NOTE: none of the quotes in this fake news story are real. This story isnt' real. This is a (poorly thought out) satire.