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Today in MSU History: An End to the Winless Streak

11/11/1961- Johnny Baker's diving catch on the 2-point conversion attempt gave Mississippi State an 11-10 win over Auburn, ending the Bulldogs' 22-game SEC winless streak.

In November of 1961, Mississippi State was mired in a 0-21-1 SEC drought, having gone winless since the SEC opener three years earlier. Wade Walker was playing out his last season as head coach, and State had just been shutout 0-24 at Alabama. Next on the schedule was Auburn in Birmingham.

State started out with determination on its first possession, yielding an 18 play, 62 yard drive that stalled on the Auburn 14 and ended with a Sammy Dantone field goal that put MSU up 3-0.

State’s 3-0 lead held until the third quarter, when Auburn lined up for a 33-yard field goal. Woody Woodall’s attempt was blocked, but both teams were ruled offsides. The down was replayed and he made his second attempt, knotting the game at 3.

MSU’s Tootie Hill immediately led State on a 67 yard drive deep into Tiger territory, but John McGeever’s interception ended the threat.

Later, McGeever intercepted another Bulldog pass and returned the ball to the 9 yardline. Auburn QB Bobby Hunt then hit Bobby Foret for a touchdown, giving the Tigers a 10-3 lead with 11:39 left.

Another deep Bulldog drive stalled at the Auburn 12, where State turned it over on downs. But the defense forced a 3-and-out, and the offense had another shot, starting at MSU's 31.

Tootie Hill hit Johnny Baker for consecutive 11- and 29-yard receptions, and State was suddenly at Auburn’s 29 yardline. Hill then scrambled twice for 15 and 4 yards, and a Billy Cook’s 7 yard run gave State a first-and-goal at the 3. Cook only needed one chance, running over left tackle for a touchdown. Auburn held a 10-9 lead pending the PAT, with less than three minutes left.

With overtime still 30 years away from implementation, State opted to go for two points and the win. Charlie Furlow took the snap, side-stepped a defender, and hurled it to the left of Johnny Baker in the endzone. Baker dove and made a spectacular almost-horizontal catch to put MSU up 11-10 with 2:42 left.

On Auburn's first play after the kickoff, Dave Edwards fumbled and Sammy Dantone recovered for State, who ran out the clock.

State dropped the two remaining games on the schedule, and Coach Wade Walker’s 6-year tenure in Starkville ended after the 1961 season. After posting a respectable 6-7-1 SEC record in his first two seasons, he finished with a 2-23-1 conference record during his final four years.

Surprisingly, video exists of this game. Be sure to check out Johnny Baker's diving catch at the end. Hat tip to sparky39762 for the video.