It's been a long time, but NC State and Mississippi State are familiar with each other. The history between the two football programs extends back more than 80 years, and includes shared land-grant monikers like "Aggies," plus the "A&M" phase. We are more alike than you could imagine. The football games have been pretty good, too.
The Bulldogs and Wolfpack have met five times, with the Pack holding a 3-2 edge. It's been two decades since the most recent meeting, and prior to that, the teams hadn't met since the 1963 Liberty Bowl. Here's something I didn't realize: the Liberty Bowl used to be played in Philadelphia. I probably should have realized that before, because Liberty Bell -- Philadelphia -- Liberty Bowl -- duh.
That's where MSU and NCSU played, in temperatures below freezing, in front of a crowd of some 8,000 or so. The game relocated south to Memphis shortly thereafter.
NC State lost that Liberty Bowl, so there ain't much football-type substance worth revisiting, but I did enjoy the Technician coverage of the contest, which included an entire paragraph devoted to the chancellor's attire:
If that's not an incredibly necessary paragraph, I don't know what is.
The game was on Dec. 21, and as of Dec. 12, the two schools had combined to sell about 600 tickets. NC State was running a special train deal--incredibly affordable-lookin'!--but only 35 signed up. Confidence about strong attendance was not high:
Thirty-nine bucks for a round-trip ticket to Philly with hotel stay included. That seems like a steal; not sure why folks weren't clamoring to fill up that train (which could hold 450 fans). Sure, there was the proximity to Christmas, the bitter cold, and otherwise awful conditions for a game that was televised, but c'mon! These days it probably costs 39 bucks to even consider thinking about going on a road trip with the Wolfpack Club. Those folks should have considered what inflation would do to that dollar amount in 50 years and used it to put this in perspective. (At the expense of proportion.)
The Wolfpack won the first two meetings between the schools, which happened in 1930 and 1931. At that point, the Mississippi State Bulldogs were the Mississippi A&M Aggies. (That sounds familiar!) The 1931 game ended 6-0 with the lone score coming off a blocked punt. Take it away, Technician:
Greason, by the way, was NC State's "kicking end," as the paper put it. He was the punter, and a damn fine one at that--Technician lauded his efforts in this game. He averaged more than 40 yards per kick, which was no small accomplishment by the paltry standards of the time. The kid just made plays. He was there to pin the Aggies deep in their own territory, and on the spot to reap the rewards of his fine puntsmanship.
When you're hot you're hot, and baby, the Grease was cookin' that fine day. In fact there is an entire article in that issue devoted to the upcoming matchup between Greason and Duke's punter, "the two leading punters of the State." I'm assuming State was capitalized out of habit.
By 1940, circumstances had flipped, leaving NC State as a significant underdog heading into its game against the Maroon. Mississippi State was in the midst of one of its finest seasons, and entered the late-October game with an undefeated record. We were also old friends by then. The States had plenty in common as "country cousins," including their preferred style of play:
Mississippi State was well ahead in terms of both scheme and talent, and the Maroon won without much trouble, 26-10. They were 10-0-1 that season, finishing with an Orange Bowl win over Georgetown. The football universe was completely out of control at that time.
Which cousin is more country? This is up for debate. Mississippi State is at peace with the whole "cow college" joke, what with its cowbell obsession. As for NC State? I give you this:
That's right, buddy, we had a school barn, and not in the "let's go catch a game at the old barn" sense, but in a barn barn sense. Where there were horses and wagons. I can't do the entire article justice, but basically these kids ended up in a chase with police--who were in cars. And a well-dressed professor led "Old Dobbin"--that's the horse--back to its home. They were narc'd on by a "student employe of the Animal Husbandry Department," and hang on ... I think I've seen this movie. If this is not a movie, it should be a movie. Where's the 1980s when you need 'em?
Clearly our country credentials are legitimate. The same can be said for Mississippi State, whose students for all we know were and remain fond of riding cows about town. It's been 20 years since we've met face-to-face, so we'll need some time to catch up. As cousins, I'm sure we'll quickly fall into old habit, which is football with a side of barn.