Throughout the stretches of barren wastelands that litter Ole Miss and Mississippi State’s football histories, there have been plenty of first-year head coaches called upon to lead each program out of said wastelands. However, dual callings haven’t aligned since around the time Hitler told the United Kingdom and Europe he definitely wasn’t interested in starting a war as long as everyone was cool with Germany taking a chunk of Czechoslovakia.
On Saturday afternoon, it will be the first time since 1938 that both Ole Miss and Mississippi State have first-year head coaches standing on the sidelines for the Egg Bowl. Compared to recent years, the build up to such a rare game is more subdued, which may not have everything to do with Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach, but they’re a big influence on the change in tone.
It’s clear they like each other and are approaching the game as an important game in a long line of important games. Combined with it not being the last game of the season (hopefully), a regular kickoff time rather than the only game on Thanksgiving night, both teams being deeply flawed, and the last 8+ months of life in general sucking the energy out of the room, it’s a week that is lacking in the usual juice and sense of dread.
While we can’t speak to what Egg Bowl week was like for those coaches in 1938 and earlier, unless pre-World War II The Ringer did an oral history we don’t know about, we can at least look back at what happened on these occasions.
Of the previous nine times this rarity occurred, Mississippi State leads with a 5-3-1 record. Now, you could make an argument that Matt Luke and Joe Moorhead met in 2018 as first-year head coaches since Luke was technically the interim coach in 2017.
I hear that argument, but I dismiss it because it is the “Rudy Giuliani leaking printer ink out of his head” of arguments, but more importantly, I don’t want to write about Matt Luke. With that out of the way, we turn to examine the stone tablets used to record these rare birds of history.
1901 - Mississippi State 17, Ole Miss 0
In the first meeting between the schools, both rolled into the October 28th game with first-year coaches. Perhaps trying to revolutionize college football in its early stages, Ole Miss had not one but TWO head coaches in William Sibley and Daniel S. Martin.
Mississippi State took the more conventional approach that has withstood the test of time, electing to have only one head coach in L.B. Harvey. It should be noted that Mississippi State’s (then known as Mississippi A&M) first four head coaches all had initial names.
Taking it out even further, of Mississippi State’s first 11 head coaches, seven (!) had initial names.
Huge Red Dead Redemption II old prospector who wants to borrow some money and will eventually try to steal your horse energy.
In 1902, another technicality arises. Given that Ole Miss went 2-4 in 1901, the powers that be decided the two-head coach approach wasn’t going to work. That meant Daniel S. Martin became the sole head coach in 1902.
Technically, he was a solo first-year head coach, but we don’t know what the setup was in 1901. Was Martin the brains behind the operation while Sibley acted as a figurehead to sell tickets? Did they evenly split duties? Or was Sibley in charge and handing out ass-chewings on the sideline? Who knows!
Due to the lack of clarity, I’m not including the 1902 matchup, which featured Martin, who went by “D.S.” during the season (MEGA EYE ROLL), and first-year State head coach L. Gwinn. However, if you’re dying to know the outcome, Ole Miss won 21-0.
1903 - Ole Miss 6, Mississippi State 6
God bless the souls who sat through this game. Especially State fans, because in their next game three weeks later (1903 scheduling was weird), which was also their final game of the season (see, very weird), State tied Tulane 0-0.
In this game, Ole Miss trotted out Mike Harvey, while State was led by Dan Martin, the first non-initial name head coach in program history.
1907 - Mississippi State 15, Ole Miss 0
Under the direction of Frank Mason, Ole Miss not only lost this game but was outscored 195-6 in six total games (spoiler: they won zero of those). Even more outrageous, Mason allegedly gave his players coffee spiked with whiskey in an effort to warm them up at halftime, with the score at 0-0.
So if you thought Ole Miss never experienced a second-half collapse due to players drinking whiskey, you are now informed that is not true. If, prior to today, we were unsure who the Houston Nutt of 1907 was, we have identified him.
Ending Mason’s one-year Ole Miss career was Fred “The Fur Man” Furman, a renowned seller of fur coats in his side hustle. No idea if that is true, but if I’m referencing Wikipedia above, I’ll throw out a dubious claim that could show up on The Fur Man’s Wikipedia page.
1909 - Ole Miss 9, Mississippi State 5
After two straight losses to Mississippi State, your boy, Dr. Nathan P. Stauffer, showed up with the prescription for winning. Two weeks prior to beating W.D. Chadwick’s (THE INVENTOR OF WD-40??????) squad, Stauffer took his team to Arkadelphia (ARKADELPHIA) and tied Henderson-Brown, 12-12.
Related, I-30 from Little Rock to Texarkana is perhaps the most boring, seems 12-hours-longer-than-it-actually-is stretch of road anywhere.
We should also pause to applaud the out of control booster culture both programs had. In nine years, there were five coaching changes in Oxford and Starkville. Only because they didn’t know about it, the NCAA Committee on Infractions didn’t include a reference to the 19 aughts in its final 2017 report, which cited the booster cultures of 1994 and 1986 as reasons to punish a school in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Seventeen.
1917 - Mississippi State 41, Ole Miss 14
Prior to doing baseball things that would result in his name being placed upon the CATHEDRAL OF COLLEGE BASEBALL, C.R. “Dudy” Noble was a garbage-ass football coach at Ole Miss. In two seasons, he went 2-7-1 and managed to be outscored 269-88.
His resumé includes a 52-7 loss to LSU, a 54-0 loss to Alabama, a nice 69-7 loss to Sewanee, a 34-0 loss to State in 1918, and a 6-0 loss to something called Payne Field. After moving on to Mississippi State, he concluded his football coaching career with a 3-4-2 record in the 1922 season.
Dunking on Noble that early November afternoon in Tupelo was State coach Sid Robinson, who promised his team if they won, he’d take them on a post-game trip to Applebee’s had it been created in time.
1922 - Mississippi State 19, Ole Miss 13
Speaking of 1922, it’s Noble coaching State and beating R.A. Cowell’s team in Jackson. And speaking of garbage coaching, Cowell opened his Ole Miss coaching career with a 0-0 tie against Union in the first game of the season.
If Twitter existed in 1922, everyone would be @-ing the FBI with a screenshot of the box score.
1925 - Mississippi State 6, Ole Miss 0
When you TURN ON THE TAPE of a Homer Hazel Ole Miss team and a Bernie Bierman Mississippi State team, you know points are going to be at a premium, Bob.
Fun fact about Hazel’s first Ole Miss team: They followed up this loss with a 7-0 loss to Vanderbilt the following week. Not to worry though, the next week against Sewanee, they paired down their calls, got back to basics, and only lost 10-9.
1930 - Ole Miss 20, Mississippi State 0
After the departure of Homer Hazel to Jefferson Pilot Radio, Ed Walker continued Ole Miss’ winning ways against State (Hazel went 3-1-1). Chris Cagle’s one year in Starkville ended the same way it began, with his team scoring zero points (shout-out to the 1930 Rhodes team and their 14-0 win in Starkville).
1938 - Ole Miss 19, Mississippi State 6
In the last battle of two first-year head coaches, it was Harry J. Mehre’s Ole Miss team getting the best of Spike Nelson’s Mississippi State team. Nelson came to Starkville after spending some time in Hollywood where, with a name like Spike Nelson, he played an football player/wrestler/bully in many of your favorite 1980s high school movies.
Mehre would go on to coach seven more seasons at Ole Miss, compiling a 39-26-1 record. However, he would later tell friends that the 1938 game against State had a special place in his heart because of the touchdown that put the game away:
82 years after Mehre’s favorite touchdown, we finally have another first-year coaches matchup. Because this game is a very normal game that never goes off the rails, I’m sure it will feature only dashes of chaos, anxiety, and aggressive day-drinking.