Mississippi State, an 18-point underdog on its home field, ended the nations's longest college football winning streak today with a 6-3 shocker of top-ranked Alabama on an afternoon four teams among the nation's top 10 lost.
Also defeated were No. 2 UCLA, 23-17 by Arizona; No. 6 North Carolina, 41-7 by Oklahoma, and No. 10 Baylor, 30-22 by San Jose State (details, Page D10).
Mississippi State's victory -- halting an Alabama winning streak that had reached 28 since a 24-14 loss to Southern California in 1978 -- was not clinched until the waning seconds when the Bulldogs stopped Alabama for the last time, forcing and recovering a fumble at the State four-yard line.
Emory Bellard, the man who designed the wishbone when he was offensive coordinator at Texas in 1968, was the one who dismantled it today. He lined his players up man on man, crowding the line of scrimmage, and the Crimson Tide never could break through the wall -- or complete the passes this defensive alignment offered them.
Alabama, the nation's highest scoring team, managed just 116 yards rushing, 180 yards altogether, and 11 first downs.
Alabama's only points, on a 49-yard field goal by Korean-born Peter Kim, came in the final seconds of the first half after Mississippi State's Marty McDole fumbled a fair catch.
MSU tied the game with 11:59 left in the third quarter, when Dana Moore kicked a 37-yard field goal. That also was set up by a fumble, by reserve quarterback Alan Gray, who was in the game because Don Jacobs had been shaken up.
Mississippi State, now 7-2, gained the lead when Moore kicked a 22-yard field goal with 13:35 remaining in the game.
The Bulldogs' quarterback, freshman John Bond, was inaccurate, with two completions in 10 passes. But his strong running -- he gained 94-yards -- enabled MSU to drive 67 yards on 12 plays to set up Moore's second field goal.
"It was my biggest thrill in life," Moore said.
Although the Bulldogs dominated statistically, with 216 yards rushing, 17 first downs, Alabama rallied in the final two minutes and drove from midfield to the MSU four before Jacobs fumbled.
In that closing drive, the visitors were hampered by a cowbell-ringing crowd of 50,891, the largest ever in partly renovated Jackson Memorial Stadium.
Jacobs, who completed just one of his first nine passes, drilled home three straight to cover 53 yards in the final 70 seconds. With a first down at the four and 21 seconds left, Jacobs tried to call signals over the crowd's roar. He pointed to his right ear and looked hopefully to an official, but the Tide had no timeouts left and the officials were not going to grant them one here.
So Jacobs went ahead with the play, faking a handoff to fullback Billy Jackson and keeping the ball himself. He got nowhere as another Billy Jackson, this one a freshman defensive end for MSU, knocked the ball loose and recovered the fumble.
The Mississippi State players erupted with joy and some hoisted Bellard to their shoulders, but almost were premature. Six seconds remained, and the Bulldogs fumbled on their one. But Mississippi State recovered as time expired.
In 1971, it was Bellard, chalkboard in hand in an Alabama motel room, who tutored Byrant in the finer points of the wishbone. Bryant adopted the offense that year and won 11 straight games with it.
But today, Bellard gave America's winningest football coach (303 victories) another lesson, and Bryant acknowledged it.
"They were well coached," he said. "They had a good game plan. They had folks between us and where we were going."
Bryant slumped in his chair, nervously pinching his throat as he discussed the game with reporters.
"It was a spirited, hard hitting game," he said. "Most of the hard hitting was done by them. We were beaten badly. They proved we're not near as good as some people think."
Still, Bryant felt his team could have won the game had it been played in another stadium. "I thought we were gonna win the game right there at the end," he said. "But the crowd took care of that."
"It was tough to hear," said halfback Major Ogilvie. "But that wasn't what beat us. Mississippi State just had a great defense against that particular play (when Jacobs fumbled). We've got to prepare harder than the other team. We just didn't do that this week."
Alabama, now 7-1, normally uses most of it's players, and when the regulars were needed to play most of this game, some may not have been conditioned for it.
MSU linebacker John Miller said, "We just stopped them for three quarters and they were dragging in the fourth quarter. We looked them in the eyes at the line of scrimmage and went after them."