All across SB Nation today, you’ll find stories about the crazy 2007 College football season since it has been 10 years since that wild and wacky year. And before you think Mississippi State’s wasn’t that odd, remember this was the team Sylvester Croom led the Bulldogs to a bowl game.
Expectations were pretty low for the Bulldogs as the 2007 season began. The Bulldogs were coming off their seventh straight losing season, and many thought Sylvester Croom had to have a good year or he’d be gone by season’s end. He entered the 2007 season with a 9-25 record, with a humiliating 9-7 loss to Maine in 2004 as possibly the lowest point in the school’s history.
So when Mississippi State opened the season on a Thursday night with a 45-0 loss to LSU in which Michael Henig threw SIX interceptions, most of us thought this would be more of the same. But then the weirdness started.
Mississippi State rebounded with a win over Tulane the next week, and headed to Auburn for what most thought would be a butt kicking. But Michael Henig would leave the game with a broken bone in his hand and Wesley Carroll began to take control of the QB position by simply not making stupid throws.
With the Bulldogs down 14-13 in the fourth quarter, Demario Bobo picked off a Kodi Burns pass around midfield. The Bulldogs took 10 plays to go 44 yards and take a 19-14 lead after a failed two point conversion. The Bulldogs would stave off a late Auburn drive in the fourth quarter and get a huge win which got people thinking this season might be different.
The Swing Game
The next five games went as most thought they would. It led Mississippi State to a 4-4 record as they headed to Lexington to take on the Kentucky Wildcats. Mississippi State was looking for bowl eligibility and a win over Kentucky would go a long way to getting to that goal.
The Wildcats were ranked 14th in the country (no, that isn’t a typo) and were 6-2. It wasn’t going to be easy, but the Bulldogs thought they had an opportunity to make some noise in this game.
The Bulldogs took a close 14-7 game at halftime and turned it into a beating in the second half. Kentucky made multiple mistakes in the second half, and Croom’s Bulldogs took advantage each time. The Bulldogs ran their lead out to 31-17 after a Kentucky fumble at the 39 and it would be all she wrote for the Wildcats after that.
Sylvester Croom beats Nick Saban
But probably the most iconic weird part of the 2007 season was on November 10th, the very next week. The Bulldogs needed a win to get bowl eligibility and Nick Saban came to Starkville for the first time as the coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The Bulldogs had never beaten Nick Saban prior to this game. In every game he coached against the Bulldogs as the head coach of the LSU Tigers, Saban had dominated Mississippi State.
After an unsuccessful foray into the NFL, Saban returned to College Football with arguably the best team in the sport’s history. The Tide knew better things were coming, but they were doing okay through the first 9 games with a 6-3 record and a 4-2 SEC mark.
For the first time since the 2000 season, there was excitement throughout the fan base. A then record crowd would pack Davis Wade Stadium and see the Bulldogs get off to a slow start though.
Alabama was up 9-3 and driving in what most thought would be a possession to kill the Bulldogs’ chances with less than 30 seconds remaining before halftime. With 3rd and goal from the Bulldog one yard line, Mississippi State defensive lineman Titus Brown forced Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson into a poor throw. Anthony Johnson picked off the pass and ran it the entire length of the field from the Mississippi State end zone for a pick six and gave Mississippi State a huge momentum swing and a 10-9 lead as the half came to a close.
The Bulldogs would pick off Wilson again during the opening possession of the second half and score five plays later after starting on the Alabama 25. Alabama would add a field goal, but after a Titus Brown sack on the final play of the game, the Bulldogs were bowl eligible for the first time since 2000, and this would be the only game so far Mississippi State has been able to beat the legendary Nick Saban.
Ed Orgeron gets Croomed
After losing to Arkansas the following week, the Bulldogs and their fans were looking forward to a nice bowl sendoff with a win over the arch rival Ole Miss Rebels. Ole Miss came into the Egg Bowl with a 3-7 record and winless in the SEC. The game was supposed to be a breeze.
But much like the Alabama game, nothing went right to start this game for Mississippi State. The Bulldogs trailed 14-0 with less than 13 minutes remaining in the game and Ole Miss was facing 4th and 1 from around midfield. With the Bulldogs unable to do anything all game long on offense, most assumed Ole Miss Head Coach Ed Orgeron would punt the football.
But for some reason, he decided to go for it. The Bulldogs would stuff a Green-Ellis rush attempt for a two yard loss and completely rejuvenate the team. The Bulldogs drove 46 yards and cut the deficit in half with just under 8 minutes to play.
Ole Miss would not get a single first down for the rest of the game. After a three and out for the Rebels, Wesley Carroll drove Mississippi State deep inside Ole Miss territory, but threw an interception, killing the drive and what most assumed were the Bulldogs’ chances to win the game.
The defense and special teams had other ideas. The defense held the Rebels to another three and out and forced a punt. Derek Pegues took a punt 75 yards in for a touchdown to knot the game at 14-14 with less than three minutes to play.
After another three and out by Ole Miss, Mississippi State took the ball at their own 35 with 36 seconds left to play. Two Wesley Carroll passes and a quarterback scamper put the Bulldogs at the Ole Miss 31. Adam Carlson would come on to kick the game winning field goal from 48 yards out.
The Bulldogs were headed to a bowl game for the first time since 2000 where they played in the Liberty Bowl and completely packed the stadium. Anthony Dixon would go over 1,000 yards rushing and the Bulldogs would win the game 10-3 over Central Florida and finish the season with an 8-5 record, and Sylvester Croom named SEC Coach of the Year.
With the weird 2007 season magic coming to an end, the Croom led Bulldogs looked like they had for most of his career in 2008. The Bulldogs went 4-8 and Croom was let go at the the end of the season.
But there was always that fun 2007 season we get to remember from Croom. He found a way to win 8 games that season, 4 in the SEC, despite getting outscored on the season 301-279. The Bulldogs were out gained in total yards by an average of 34.6 yards per game. It was a weird way to win 8 games, but 2007 was just a weird season across college football, so I guess it all makes sense.