15 years ago today, Mississippi State stepped into the Georgia Dome in Atlanta as David from the classic Bible story. The Bulldogs, heavy underdogs to #1 Tennessee, had made their way to the first SEC Championship game in school history after winning the SEC West. Even after a pretty good season, surely MSU couldn't pull off the monumental upset, right? I mean no one could touch Tennessee that year.
Although that premonition would prove to be true as the Volunteers claimed the SEC Championship that year with a 24-14 win, they didn't do it as easily as they thought they would. State battled with the big orange for four quarters, and about midway through the fourth, turned a 7-10 deficit into a 14-10 lead via a Kevin Prentiss punt return for a touchdown. I was at that game, and as a young teenager I'll never forget the bliss of that moment, as we all realized that we had a shot to take down the best team in the country.
Tennessee would bounce back with two quick touchdown passes from Tee Martin to win the game, but that didn't damper my spirits much (even though as a young State fan, I had yet to become beaten down by our school's poor luck historically). We walked into the dome that day and gave it everything we had, and nearly -- yes, only nearly -- took down a dynasty. Tennessee would go on to win the first ever BCS National Championship that year, and Mississippi State would, ah, participate in the Cotton Bowl (INSERT RICKY WILLIAMS NIGHTMARE HERE). Still, the memory of that game, Robert Bean's INT return!, that Kevin Prentiss punt return, Keith Jackson's rare call of an MSU game, and even Al Wilson flipping off the entire MSU section, will always be with me. A loss, yes, but a day to remember and be proud of as an MSU fan.