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Today in MSU History: State Beats the Eventual Rose Bowl Champs

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Mississippi State knocks off the Washington Huskies, who went on to win the Rose Bowl in 1977.

In 1977, Mississippi State was coming off a 9-2 season where their only losses came at Tuscaloosa and at Gainesville. There was a lot of hype in Starkville, and after a 17-15 win in the opener against North Texas State, Bob Tyler and the 16th-ranked Bulldogs headed to Seattle to play the Washington Huskies.

Washington was coming off a 5-6 season, but finished 4-1 in their final five games, including wins over UCLA (in Los Angeles) and Southern Cal, both top-15 teams. So there was plenty of optimism in Seattle, too.

Washington's Joe Steele returned the opening kickoff 73 yards to the Mississippi State 21, giving the Huskies great field position on their first possession. But the State defense held and forced Washington to settle for a field goal - their first of four on the day.

On the Bulldogs' first possession, Dennis Johnson fumbled at MSU's 34 yardline, but the defense stood tall againand Washington kicked another field goal to go up 6-0.

State charged back with vengeance, driving 78 yards on 17 plays, with James Jones's touchdown erasing Washington's lead.

Two more successful second quarter MSU drives ended in a Dave Marler field goal and 44-yard touchdown pass to Len Copeland, putting the visitors up 17-6 midway through the period.

Just before half, quarterback Bruce Threadgill found fullback Dennis Johnson for a short pass up the middle, and Johnson outran the rest of the Washington defense for an 81-yard score. State held a 24-9 lead at halftime.

Washington finally found paydirt in the 3rd quarter, capitalizing off a Bruce Threadgill fumble - one of six Bulldog fumbles on the day. Afterwards, Bob Tyler shrugged off MSU's inability to hold on to the ball. "We had some fumbles but I'm not that worried because a lot of that is because we run so many plays."

I doubt that nonchalant quote would suffice in today's world of social media and message boards. "Six fumbles, you say? Oh, that's not that big of a deal." I'd love to see Twitter's reaction to that quote...

State held on to win 27-18, thanks to a defense who held Washington to four redzone field goals, depriving them of crossing the goal line on several threatening occasions.

The win gave State a #12 national ranking and a 2-0 start to the 1977 season, but the Bulldogs tanked at the end of the year and finished 5-6. They did, however, manage to escape victorious at Auburn and against ole miss in Jackson.

After a rocky 1-3 start to the season, Washington finished the year 8-4 (6-1 PAC-8), capped by a win in the Rose Bowl over #4 Michigan, 27-20.

The win was eventually vacated after the 1978 season when Bob Tyler left State in controversy (the NCAA forfeited MSU's wins from 1975-77). Still, Tyler was offered the job as athletic director-only, but stepped down after refusing to give up his position as football coach.