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Delta State's Remarkable Run this Football Season

delta_state_stadium_2Scattershooting while contemplating the fact that it took until mid-November before we finally have no unbeaten college football teams in Mississippi. . . .
Almost lost in this amazing Magnolia State football season has been Delta State’s remarkable run under second-year coach Todd Cooley. The Statesmen were 3-7 on the season before Cooley took over. They have gone 7-3 and 9-1 since. They are champions of the Gulf South Conference, the nation’s best Division II league. They average 46 points and 500 yards a game. They have a first-round bye in the Division II playoffs. They might just win a national championship.
While on the subject of Mississippi’s best-kept secret, Delta State, applause is deserved for the Margaret Wade statue dedicated last Friday in a moving ceremony. Wade, the first female elected to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, was a remarkable coach and lady. Greenville native Bill Beckwith sculpted the splendid work of art, a fitting tribute to one of the true legends of Mississippi sports.
Did you see where Aaron Brooks has been inducted into the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame? Brooks is a nice guy who had his moments in New Orleans. Hall of Famer? You decide. Go to youtube.com. Google Aaron Brooks and “backwards pass”. Go ahead, do it. Now then, case closed. . . .
Numbers to consider: The San Francisco 49ers, 68 years old and with five NFL Championships, have 24 franchise Hall of Famers. The Saints, 47 years old and with one NFL Championship, have 44 franchise Hall of Famers.
A quarterback probably will win the Heisman, but the best player in the country might be Alabama receiver Amari Cooper, and Tide running back T.J. Yeldon isn’t far behind.
Yeldon, by the way, reminds this writer so much of Marcus Allen, and I can’t think of many higher compliments. He runs upright as Allen did. He glides as Allen did. He slides through tiny holes as Allen did. He’s deceptively strong and fast, as Allen was. He’s also apparently tough as a two-dollar steak. He couldn’t walk after the LSU game and he was fantastic seven days later against State.
Alabama’s 25-20 victory over Mississippi State is testament to how a punter can dictate a game and why it was so overdue that Ray Guy go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Guy used to control games with his booming punts, just as Alabama freshman JK Scott did last Saturday.
Dan Mullen said as much: “The MVP of the game is probably Alabama’s punter.”
Seems almost unfair that the nation’s most talented football team also has the nation’s best punter.
About Will Muschamp: Further proof that the most difficult step in football is the one from coordinator to head coach. Some make the transition seamlessly. Most don’t. And most don’t get the opportunity to make that transition at a place like Florida. . . .
Said Steve Spurrier, the SEC’s best quote in history after his Gamecocks finished off Muschamp and the Gators: “I must be getting old when I feel for the other coach.”
From the how’d-that-turn-out department: Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley has now tried to train two head coaches on the job: Ron Zook and Will Muschamp. Just my opinion: You don’t have to do that at Florida.
If I were an athletic director, especially at a place like Florida, I’d be more prone to look for a head coach who has proven himself, even at a lower level. Besides Delta’s Cooley, here’s another rising star: West Georgia’s Will Hall, son of outgoing Madison Central coach Bobby Hall, who guided his first West Georgia team to a 9-2 record, including a victory over otherwise undefeated Delta State. Before that, Will Hall was a two-time Gulf South Coach of the Year at West Alabama.
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watts has scored four touchdowns this season. He is the first defensive lineman since 1948 to score as many as four touchdowns in a season. Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer Ray Poole did it in 66 years ago.
images-1Rick Cleveland (rcleveland@msfame.com) is executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.

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