After the disaster of Spike Nelson's only season in Starkville, the Maroon's hit a homerun with the hire of Allyn McKeen. The former guard from Tennessee lettered in three sports (football, basketball, and track), and he carried his playing success to the coaching world.
He coached West Tennessee State (now Memphis) to a 10-0 record in his second season after going 3-6 in his opening season there, the only time he would finish below .500 as a coach.
In 1939, McKeen got off to a 3-0 record with wins over Arkansas and Florida before stumbling against Auburn dropping a 7-0 decision in Birmingham. The only other loss his team would suffer that season was a 7-0 loss at Alabama. The team finished on a four game winning streak including a 15-12 win at LSU and an 18-6 win at Ole Miss to finish 8-2 (3-2).
The season foreshadowed what was to come in 1940, and had the team scored 10 points against Auburn and Alabama, they may have been national champions in 1939.