The 1950's were a dark time for Mississippi State football.
Prior to the 1949 season, State had forced out her greatest coach in history, Allyn McKeen, after his first non-winning season in 9 years.
Read that again.
That's right, McKeen had eight winning seasons where we lost no more than 3 games – including an Orange Bowl bid and an SEC Championship – but one 4-4-1 record was enough to give him the boot. What a mistake.
Still, we followed McKeen with some good coaches like Murray Warmath, who later led Minnesota to a National Title, and Darrell Royal, a future legendary coach at the University of Texas. But they didn't stick around long enough to turn around State's suffering.
And we had great players, like SEC Players of the Year Jackie Parker (1953) and Art Davis (1954). But the on-field results were nothing like they were in the 1940's. In McKeen’s 9 seasons, State went 65-19-3, winning 62% of our SEC games, but in the 14 years after he was fired, State went 55-70-8, winning less than 30% of conference matches.
To make matters worse, John Vaught was making a spectacular career at Ole Miss, where he eventually amassed 18 bowl berths and 6 SEC Titles from 1947-1970.
As you would expect, Ole Miss dominated State during this period. And I don't mean "won more than they lost." They DOMINATED.
Beginning in 1947, McKeen's next-to-last season, Ole Miss held a 14-0-2 record in Battles for the Golden Egg headed into the 1963 season. In those 16 games, only thrice did State eclipse 10 points, and only once scored more than 2 touchdowns. By the early 1960's, State longed for a victory over her bitter rival.
1963 was a rare good season for State, where Paul Davis coached MSU to a 7-2-2 record (4-1-2 SEC) and a Liberty Bowl victory in Philadelphia. Yet still we could only achieve a 10-10 tie against the vaunted Rebels, who surprisingly opted for the tying field goal with 3 minutes left on 4th and goal from the 3 yardline, all but assuring the game would end in a deadlock. The tie was Ole Miss's only bleminsh on a 5-0-1 conference record.
In 1964, Ole Miss was coming off of a five-year stretch full of four 10-win seasons, three Sugar Bowl bids, three conference championships, and only 2 conference losses. Suffice it to say, Ole Miss was the class of the SEC.
If ever there was a chance to pull a victory against the Rebels, 1964 was the year. Ole Miss struggled and entered The Battle of the Golden Egg with a 5-4-1 record, far from their top-10 ranking each of the previous five seasons. But 1964 wasn't kind to the Bulldogs either, with State holding a measly 3-6 record. It seemed as if, at State’s best (1963), they could only tie Ole Miss, and at Ole Miss’ worst (1964), State still seemed outmatched. And with the game being played in Oxford, it seemed like MSU's 18-year winless streak would be extended.
The game started off as usual - with State in the hole. Ole Miss took an early 3-0 lead behind Billy Carl Irwin's field goal, but State chipped back and took a 6-3 lead on Justin Canale's two field goals, including a 49-yarder on the final play before halftime.
In the second half, MSU's Don Edwards hit Marcus Rhoden for a 17-yard touchdown, giving State a 13-3 lead - the most points we'd scored against Ole Miss in 12 years.
But the Rebels answered with 5 minutes left in the game and cut the lead to 13-10. Ole Miss got the ball back, but State's Dan Bland picked off Jim Weatherly and returned the ball to the Ole Miss 6 yardline. Two plays later, Hoyle Granger scored and State held a 20-10 lead. Ole Miss promptly took the kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 20-17 with 1:29 left, but State held the ball and ran out the clock, claiming our first Golden Egg win in 18 years.
Think about that - the oldest State player on that field wasn't old enough to remember the last time State beat Ole Miss.
From that season, Ole Miss declined (from their 1959-1963 standards), never finishing better than 8-4 and 4th in the SEC during the final 7 years of the John Vaught era. Meanwhile, State returned to the SEC cellar – winning just 1 of our next 25 SEC games. And we wouldn't win The Egg again until 1970, Vaught's final season at Ole Miss.
One Golden Egg victory in 20 years. I'm glad I didn't have to sit through that...