STARKVILLE, Miss. – Welcome to the history books, Mississippi State.
Sunday night, Dan Mullen and his Bulldog football team accepted a bid to play Rice in the 55th AutoZone Liberty Bowl, slated for Dec. 31 at 3 p.m. in a game that will be televised by ESPN. For Mississippi State, it’s the fourth-straight year to play in a bowl, a first in program history.
Overall, it will be MSU’s 17th bowl appearance. The Bulldogs are 9-7 in previous bowl games and have won five of their last six postseason showdowns.
“Our seniors have done something no one here has ever done, and that’s play in four-straights bowls,” said Mullen, who has guided Mississippi State to a 2-1 postseason ledger. “That’s special. This is a reward for all the hard work that started back in August, and I know our players, coaches and fans look forward to going to Memphis and playing another game.”
In Mullen’s second year at the helm, the Bulldogs dominated Michigan in the Gator Bowl, 52-14. Two years ago, MSU posted a 23-17 victory against Wake Forest in the Music City Bowl, before dropping a 34-20 decision last January to Northwestern in a return trip to the Gator Bowl.
As for the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, it’s MSU fourth berth.
Fifty years ago in 1963, the Bulldogs beat North Carolina State 16-12 when the game was still being contested in Philadelphia, Pa. Earlier this season, that ’63 State team was recognized at MSU’s Homecoming game against Bowling Green.
In the two other Liberty Bowl games, MSU lost to Air Force 38-15 in 1991 and upended Central Florida 10-3 in 2007, when Bulldog fans helped set an AutoZone Liberty Bowl record crowd of 63,816. Mississippi State has a large alumni base in the Memphis area.
“The AutoZone Liberty Bowl staff does a top-notch job running the Liberty Bowl, and we look forward returning to Memphis and playing Rice,” MSU athletics director Scott Stricklin said. “Our fans have a lot of passion, and we saw that in 2007 when we set the attendance record. I know they will take over the city of Memphis and enjoy all the events associated with the Liberty Bowl.”
Mississippi State finished this season 6-6 following its thrilling 17-10 overtime victory against arch-rival Ole Miss on Thanksgiving night. Rice (10-3) punched its ticket to Memphis after defeating Marshall in the Conference USA title game on Saturday, 41-24.
“We’re proud to welcome back Mississippi State to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl on the 50th anniversary of their first trip to our game and their fourth overall appearance in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl,” said Steve Ehrhart, executive director of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. “Mississippi State has great fans. They helped set the AutoZone Liberty Bowl’s all-time attendance record the last time they played in our game. We know the Bulldog Nation is energized and ready to follow their team to Memphis after the Bulldog’s thrilling overtime win in the Egg Bowl. We look forward to the Bulldogs and their fans ringing in the New Year on Beale Street.”
The Bulldogs and Owls have met just once previously in football - in 1975 - with MSU claiming a 28-14 win in Houston that was later forfeited.