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The History of Mississippi State vs. Kentucky on the Gridiron

While it has been some time since either Mississippi State or Kentucky have climbed to the top of the mountain in SEC football, the two schools have played to a near historical tie* having staged some exciting moments moments in the process, and the teams have more similarities than one might think.

Butch Dill

Very few match ups between long time members of the SEC have seen such an even head to head matchup as the one between the Mississippi State Bulldogs and the Kentucky Wildcats. With a head to head record that currently stands at 21-19 in favor of Kentucky (20-20 on the field since the Bulldogs had to forfeit a 14-7 win in 1976), the two teams have played to a near draw on the field.

Given the near even record on the field, it should not come as a surprise that the Bulldogs and Wildcats have a few other similarities when it comes to their gridiron histories. Both have had head coaches who went on to have stadiums named after them at different schools. Bear Bryant coached at Kentucky from 1947 until 1953 when he left to become the head coach and athletic director at Texas A&M. As everyone knows, he later left to go to Alabama where he would win six national championships. The Alabama Legislature later renamed Denny Stadium, Bryant-Denny Stadium, in his honor.

Mississippi State is not without its talented former coaches as well. Darrell Royal spent the 1954 and 1955 seasons at Mississippi State, experiencing a bit of success before he went to coach at Washington. After that season, he moved on to Texas, where he would go on to win three national championships and see Texas Memorial Stadium changed to Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in his honor.

The similarities do not end with the coaches as both teams have captured SEC championships. Mississippi State won their lone title in 1941, and the the Wildcats claimed the crown in 1950. In 1976, the NCAA forced Mississippi State to forfeit a 14-7 victory to Kentucky. The win changed SEC records, and the Wildcats claim that championship as well.

For whatever reason, Mississippi State has seen several players do well in the matchup against Kentucky as several single game records or longest plays from scrimmage have been set. The longest touchdown pass in Mississippi State history came in 2002 when Kevin Fant tossed a 91-yard touchdown to Terrell Grindle. Who can forget Anthony Dixon running for 252 yards against the Wildcats in 2009?

Several other Bulldogs have had remarkable games against Kentucky as well. Who knew that Mike Henig had the fifth-ranked game in terms of total offense in Mississippi State history? He accomplished that when he accounted for 391 yards of offense against Kentucky in 2006. His 384 passing yards that day ranked fourth all time for a single game at Mississippi State.

The sixth longest pass play in Mississippi State history came in 1955 (under the wishbone offense of Royal, no less) when Bill Stanton connected to William Earl Morgan for 83 yards. The ninth longest interception return in Mississippi State history happened in 2000 when Eugene Clinton picked a pass and returned it 81 yards.

When the Bulldogs and Wildcats meet Thursday at 6:30 (on ESPN) in Starkville, it will be interesting to see if another exciting moment in the matchup's history occurs.