After the Mississippi State Bulldogs thrashed Michigan in the Gator Bowl to close out the 2010 football season, expectations and hope ran high for the 2011 season. A complete throttling of Memphis to open the season added fuel to those expectations and hopes, and Bulldog fans could taste a win over Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium in the second game of the season. After all, payback for the previous season and the Cam Newton drama would taste delicious.
So of course, the 16th-ranked Bulldogs looked as flat as possible to open the game and quickly fell behind 14-0 in the first ten minutes of the game. With things starting to look bleak, the Bulldogs rallied back to tie the game at 14-14 to end the first quarter, and hope was restored in the hearts of Bulldog fans.
In the second quarter, those hopes erupted when Johnthan Banks took an interception to the house to put the Bulldogs ahead 21-14. However, the Tigers responded with two touchdowns, and the teams traded field goals to close the half, giving Auburn a 31-24 lead. Those hopes had been tempered yet again.
After trading field goals in the third quarter and touchdowns in the fourth quarter, Auburn still a seven-point lead at 41-34 lead. With about three minutes remaining in the game, the Bulldog defense forced a three and out to give the offense one last chance to get in the end zone to win or force overtime.
Taking over at their own 42, the Bulldogs pounded the ball on the ground for gains of 9, 4, 9, 10, 3, and 3 before Chris Relf completed a 16 yard pass to Vick Ballard. Relf then picked up a five yard gain, and Ballard picked up a seven yard gain to set up first and goal at the Auburn one-yard line.
On first down, Ballard was stopped for a one yard loss, and the Bulldogs called a timeout with ten second left. This set the stage for the final play of the game. According to post game comments, Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen left the run-pass option in the hands of Relf, who decided to charge at the goal line, only to come up a yard short.
Had Relf scored, Mullen said he would have gone for two and the win, so the win was far from assured.
Many Mississippi State fans list this as their most frustrating gut punch of the last few years. Personally, I have two others that sit above it. We'll get to those before the United States takes on Germany.