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Phillip Marshall: 21-21, favor of Auburn

Sept. 11, 2013

Other than Georgia, Auburn has played more football games against Mississippi State than any other opponent.  Yet, the series has never really captured the imagination of Auburn people, probably because it’s been so lopsided.

The Tigers and the Bulldogs, once known as the Maroons, have played 86 times. Auburn has won 60, lost 24 and tied two. A significant number of those Auburn victories have been blowouts.

But 60 years ago, a game against Mississippi State, one that Auburn didn’t win, was a significant milestone as Shug Jordan built toward the 1957 national championship.

Jordan’s third Auburn team, rallying from a 2-8 finish in 1952, started the 1953 season with a 47-0 win over Stetson and then ended Ole Miss’ 13-game unbeaten streak with a 13-0 victory. Up next was Mississippi State, led by Jackie Parker. Today, Parker would be known as a dual threat quarterback. In 1953, he was simply considered one of the nation’s best at his position.

A year earlier, Parker had run for three touchdowns and passed for three more in a 49-34 victory at Cliff Hare Stadium in Auburn. For most of the day, the 1953 game in Starkville didn’t look a lot different. The Maroons led 21-0 late in the third quarter.

But Bobby Duke returned a kickoff for a touchdown to make it 21-7. George Atkins blocked a punt, and Jim Pyburn ran it in for a touchdown. Finally, Bobby Freeman passed to Pyburn for a first down at the Mississippi State 2 and then ran in for the touchdown.

There was no two-point conversion rule in 1953. Auburn kicked the extra point and earned a satisfying tie.

“Auburn people still talk about the time we beat Mississippi State 21-21,” Jordan said years later.

 Auburn went on to go 7-2-1 and play in the Gator Bowl. Jordan was Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year.



Six decades later, Auburn plays Mississippi State on Saturday at what is now Jordan-Hare Stadium. And who knows what people say 60 years from now about what this game meant?

Gus Malzahn, in his first season as Auburn’s head coach, has injected new energy and new confidence into a team that had little of either after last season’s 3-9 record. His players showed determination and resilience in beating Washington State 31-24 and Arkansas State 38-9. And Saturday they take on a 10-game SEC losing streak, including a turnover-fueled 28-10 loss last season in Starkville.

Nothing that happens in Saturday’s game will tell the story of Malzahn’s time at Auburn, just like that 21-21 tie long ago didn’t tell the story of Jordan’s time at Auburn.

But as that was game was for Jordan,  this game is a big opportunity for Malzahn. It’s first SEC game as head coach and a chance to take a significant step in the right direction.

One thing we know for certain is that it won’t be a tie.


Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for Follow Marshall on Twitter:


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