Alabama receivers coach Woody McCorvey, having a few hours to kill before scouting a high school game in Atlanta last Friday, strolled into a novelty shop and bought a souvenir coin bearing the inscription EXPECT TO WIN. No motto applies better to the '94 Crimson Tide.
With less than eight minutes remaining in last Saturday's game at Mississippi State, Tim Rogers booted a 21-yard field goal to put the Bulldogs ahead 25-15. Amid a crescendo of cowbells, Mississippi State's long-suffering fans dared to believe that maybe, for just the second time in the last 37 meetings between the schools, the Bulldogs could beat 'Bama.
No two SEC schools are geographically closer (87 miles) and historically farther apart. Alabama has a dozen Sugar Bowl visits and as many national titles. Mississippi State hasn't even won the SEC title since 1941.
But this year was to be different. Entering the game the Bulldogs were 7-2, and quarterback Derrick Taite had set a single-game school passing record (466 against Tulane), while running back Kevin Bouie had set a single-game rushing mark (217 against Kentucky). Early in the week Mississippi State wideout Eric Moulds, who caught two touchdown passes on Saturday, had said, "If it's close going into the fourth quarter this year, we'll win."
It was close; in fact, the Bulldogs had the lead. But then Tide quarterback Jay Barker proved for the 33rd time in 35 starts that he is a winner. "We never thought we were going to lose," said the senior quarterback after leading his team on touchdown drives of 65 and 66 yards in the game's final six minutes. With the 29-25 win, 'Bama improved to 10-0 and moved to No. 4 in the country.
After the game Alabama alum and Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill praised Barker, though never mentioning him by name. Said Sherrill, "I've coached a long time and I've seen a great many quarterbacks, but I've never seen anyone better than number seven."
A Cruel Blow
Last Friday night, while his teammates were in Baton Rouge preparing for the season finale at Louisiana State, Southern Mississippi defensive end Jamie McPherson lay in room 273 in the Methodist Hospital of Hattiesburg watching television. Instead of readying himself for what would have been the final game of his college career, McPherson, a fifth-year senior from Grand Saline, Texas, was allowing the TV to hypnotize him. Beneath the television, on a table overflowing with mail, sat his Golden Eagle helmet and a gift—a book entitled When God Doesn't Make Sense.
McPherson had been lying in this hospital for three weeks, since the game against Samford. "I can't remember anything else about the game except that play," says McPherson, a commercial recreation major. "We were in a scheme called Killer Willie, where me and the other end [Tim Bell] come in on a straight blitz. I was fixing to hit the quarterback high, and Tim came in low. I can't even remember if we sacked him."