There are some Mississippi State football fans who rank the Bulldogs’ 6-3 victory over Alabama in 1980 as the biggest win in the program’s history. For good reason: Mississippi State knocked off an Alabama team in Jackson, Miss., that was a two-time defending national champion and carried the No. 1 ranking and a 28-game win streak into the matchup.
Then-freshman quarterback John Bond led the Bulldogs’ offense in a victory that is still celebrated today. Bond says while that game was an important moment in Mississippi State history, today the program is thriving.
“There is more support than I have ever seen now at Mississippi State than at any other point,” he says. “That’s the main thing — knowing that when you walk in that stadium, you’re going to have it full and you’re going to have people ringing cowbells. That is absolutely huge.”
GridironNow.com checked in with Bond to talk about that 1980 game, Dak Prescott and an interesting trivia question.
GridironNow: It’s been 35 years since the 6-3 win over Alabama. What stands out about that game to you still?
Bond: That they’re still talking about it. You know, I grew up a Mississippi State fan, but I was not a football player. We moved to Valdosta (in south-Central Georgia) and they made me a football player. I was a basketball-baseball guy. I loved basketball. My mom played junior college basketball and my dad was an administrator. That was kind of the connection. Our next-door neighbor was (then-Mississippi State basketball coach) Kermit Davis. So I came back (to Starkville) every year for basketball camp. I didn’t play a lick of football until my eighth-grade year.
But getting back to the Alabama game, I didn’t realize what an impact it might have if we beat these guys. Bear Bryant came to the house; he recruited me. My mom loved Bear Bryant. She got more autographs from him than anybody else, including Vince Dooley and Charley Pell and Doug Barfield; all the SEC coaches came to the house. But she loved Bear Bryant. I didn’t realize growing up what it night mean to beat Alabama, but I soon found out later.
GridironNow: When fans talk to you about that game to you, what do they want to know?
Bond: They always ask if it’s true that I drove my Corvette to Athens (to visit a female friend) after that game, which was true. But they really ask if Bear Bryant really came in (to the MSU locker room) and stood up on a folding chair. He did. He stood up there and he said, ‘Guys, don’t let anybody out here fool you. Y’all beat us today and y’all are a great football team; you beat us today and y’all will do great things this year.
Everybody asks, ‘Was that true? Was that true?’ Yeah, it sure was. Nobody commanded a room better than Bear Bryant. When he walked in and he was helped up in that chair, everybody in that room shut up. He didn’t have to ask anybody to shut up. He said shut up by standing up in that chair. He was just recruiting me a few months earlier. It was pretty cool. And to see how much it meant to Mississippi State folks — we had lost to them something like 20-something years; before I was born, they were getting their butt kicked by these guys — so it was amazing after that.
GridironNow: When you look at Dak Prescott and how he plays the position, what do you like about him? Describe Dak.
Bond: That’s what I like about him — he’s made this his team. He grabbed ahold of the handlebars and took control and he has not relinquished control since. He’s a tough guy. Playing quarterback in the SEC, you’ve got to be tough. Rules have changed a little bit to help those guys out, but I don’t care. If a tackler comes in there sideways, it’s going to hurt. It doesn’t matter. He’s a tough kid, he’s a smart kid and he’s serious about it. This is his life and this is what he wants to do and he takes it seriously and the guys believe in him and they’re behind him. And that’s the main thing — the guys believe in him and they’re behind him and they always feel they’re never out of a game with that guy taking the snaps.
GridironNow: We understand that you are the answer to a great trivia question: “Who is the only starting quarterback to post a 4-0 record against LSU?” Is that true?
Bond: That’s correct. It makes a difference if you want a cold beer in Baton Rouge, La. They will buy you one if they find out who you are; well, some will, and some will want to take you outside to the parking lot. But most of them are great fans. We’ve had people say, ‘Well, you’re the only one who had a chance.’ Well, there were plenty of people who had four shots at them. It means a lot to me because those guys were the toughest guys we played. Alabama was tough, but those guys really took it serious. They tried to hurt you. I told somebody that if they had the targeting rule back when I played, I could have — you remember those speed-walking races? — well, I could have scored a 90-yard touchdown doing that because every one of them would have been out of the game. I’d have been playing against nobody. But it’s great, I loved all those guys and playing against everybody in the SEC. I don’t have anything bad to say about any of them.
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