January 2, 2019 9:54:34 AM
Someday -- not today probably -- the sting of frustration that accompanied Mississippi State's 27-22 loss to Iowa in Tuesday's Outback Bowl will subside and Bulldog fans will be able to consider things in a broader perspective.
Tuesday's loss -- a maddening combination of miscues, mental lapses, untimely penalties and just plain bad luck -- certainly took a bit of the sheen off Mississippi State's 2018 season, Joe Moorhead's first as the Bulldog coach.
What seemed likely to be a game-winning touchdown pass in the fourth quarter instead turned into an interception that led to an Iowa field goal, turning victory into defeat. It is likely the first time ever a team has held its opponent to negative rushing yardage yet lost the game. That's the sort of thing that sticks in your craw and will leave Bulldog fans muttering under their breath until the 2020 season starts next fall.
Even so, it's important to recognize just how far Mississippi State's football program has come over the past decade.
You don't have to be on social security to remember a time when any bowl appearance, now matter how obscure, was cause for something bordering on delirium. Between 1936 (MSU's first bowl game) and 2007, the Bulldogs played in 13 bowl games, which comes out to a bowl game about every 5 ½ years. If you were a student, you had to get a master's to see your team play in a bowl game, statistically-speaking.
Today, it's a far different story.
Tuesday's appearance in the Outback Bowl was the Bulldogs' ninth consecutive bowl appearance. Only 12 teams have longer bowl streaks than that, and there are some notable football powers who cannot claim that consistency, among them Ohio State, Notre Dame, Florida State, Florida and Auburn.
Off the field, that kind of success has produced dividends for not only the university -- charitable giving is at its highest when football teams are successful -- but also for the community. Full stadiums mean full hotels, restaurants and shops as well.
For nine years, Mississippi State has enjoyed three hours of national TV exposure, not to mention the attention that comes its way in the month or two between the end of the season and the bowl game.
The cumulative effect has been to raise MSU's profile in an unprecedented way. It was once a novelty for MSU to play in a bowl game. Today, it's almost taken for granted.
It may be hard to appreciate that today, but there is something far worse than losing a bowl game: not playing in one.
That's the kind of disappointment Bulldog fans haven't suffered in almost a decade.
Things could be worse.
In fact, as recently as a decade ago, they were.
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