Don’t let schadenfreude overshadow the significance of South Alabama’s 21-10 win Saturday at Mississippi State — and there is schadenfreude to be had, since you can’t spell the word without “S-E-C.”
Keep in mind that this is a South Alabama program that, just seven years ago, played Louisburg and Huntingdon College and a variety of prep academies. Joey Jones was hired to build a football team from scratch.
From playing prep schools, to an FCS independent season seeing mostly Div. II teams, to taking lumps in FBS transition, Jones has seen more at one school than most coaches experience through a career. Beating an SEC opponent on the road marks yet another milestone in establishing the history and tradition of South Alabama football.
— Coach Joey Jones (@CoachJoeyJones) September 3, 2016
Mississippi State is historically an SEC bottom-feeder, last winning a conference championship about 20 years before South Alabama was even a university, let alone home to a Div. I football program. Dan Mullen’s since built Mississippi State to respectability, just two years rising to a No. 1 ranking and appearance in the Orange Bowl.
The Bulldogs have recruited well, the signature of the SEC as a whole. South Alabama’s a program built from those recruits the SEC schools overlook, never find, or who simply are not up to the same level as the ballyhooed prospects coveted by the self-described best conference in football.
Quarterback Dallas Davis was a 2-star recruit coming out of Panama City (Florida) Rutherford with no ratings for his attributes per his 247Sports profile. Against a talented Mississippi State defense, Davis 24-of-34 for nearly 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Star ratings can be exceeded on the field. It doesn’t often happen — there’s a reason Alabama wins both national signing day rankings and national championships.
But like Rakim once said, You ain’t where you’re from; it’s where you’re at. And South Alabama’s on the clouds in Starkville, even if the late-summer sky is perfectly clear.
South Alabama has more big wins in its future, but it will never have another first over an SEC opponent.