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The Biggest Rivalry in Mississippi College Sports
There’s a battle ready to square off against this October 25th in Baton Rouge. It will mark the 103rd contest between two neighboring state rivals, with the first game being played all the way back in 1894. The series has been held continuously since 1945, making it one of the Deep South's longest-running rivalries. All the records and national rankings are thrown out the window when two neighboring states get together.
You may have heard of the "Magnolia Bowl", which was the name selected after voting among southern rival schools. Coincidentally, the magnolia is the official state flower of both Louisiana and Mississippi. The original trophy, a simple design featuring the magnolia flower mounted on a wooden base, was unfortunately broken in a wild on-field celebration following the 2013 contest, won by Mississippi. A newly-designed trophy was unveiled during festivities in early April 2014.
One of the biggest rivalries in Deep South college sports has had more than its share of memorable moments, which is to be expected when schools from neighboring states clash in athletics. During the late 1950s through the early 1960s, both schools fielded not only powerhouse SEC squads, but also figured prominently in the national polls as well.
In the 1959 contest, played in Baton Rouge on Halloween night (October 31st), the two schools came in nationally ranked, with Louisiana (who had won the national championship the year before) sitting atop the polls at No. 1, and Mississippi holding the No. 3 spot. Late in the game, a razor-thin 3-0 lead, Louisiana’s All-American running back fielded a punt on the bounce at his own 11-yard line, maneuvered his way past the first wave of tacklers by angling towards the middle of the field. Next he encountered another handful of defenders, but managed to bob, dodge and weave his way towards the left sideline where he was able to use his elite speed to dash 89 yards for the only Mississippi touchdown. In all, the running back was hit at least seven times during what became called "Cannon's Halloween Run," cleverly based off of his last name and immediately becoming one of the more legendary and replayed moments in college football history.
The next year's (1960) meeting turned out to be another memorable contest when the teams fought to a 6-6 deadlock in Oxford. The tie would be the lone blemish on the Rebels schedule that fall, but following their victory in the Sugar Bowl, their final 10-0-1 record earned them national championship honors from the Football Writers Association of America.
Tradition is a big part of the festivities leading up to the annual Bowl, especially when the game is contested in the quintessential college town of Oxford. Old Southern hospitality is on display in The Grove, a nearly ten acre area situated in the center of the Oxford campus amid towering stands of leafy elm, magnolia and oak trees. On Rebel game days, The Grove becomes "Tailgate Central" in the heart of Dixie, hosting thousands of appropriately-attired Southern gents and belles as they congregate and mingle, sharing food, drink and Rebel-mania from among the hundreds of red, white and blue tents set up specifically for the occasion.
Another favorite activity on Football Game Days in the Deep South is viewing parties. Whether your favorite team is playing out of town, the game is sold out, or you just prefer watching the game on a big screen while dining and (hopefully) celebrating with other fans, every college town worth its salt usually has plenty of sports bars to choose from for viewing the game. One of the favorites in Mississippi is the Lone Wolf at Lady Luck Casino Vicksburg. With delicious appetizers like chicken wings and fried pickles, live entertainment, and drink specials, the Lone Wolf is one of the more popular destinations on football Saturdays.