Why Mississippi State’s Davis Wade Stadium Is One of The Best Stadium Atmospheres in the Country
On Saturday night, Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2017, I attended the Alabama-Mississippi State football game in Starkville, MS. I had never attended an Alabama road game as a student, and I was not originally intending to attend this one, but as the time slowly crept closer to kickoff, I rounded up a few of my friends, bought 4 lower-bowl tickets, and left for Starkville, fully anticipating being late to this all-important game.
Upon my arrival to the stadium around midway through the second quarter, I immediately went to my seats in the visitor’s section of the stadium to take in the sights of the home crowd. I had been to Davis Wade before, but not during a game of this magnitude and not since the new end-zone addition had been made to the northern end of the stadium, which added over 6,000 new seats and a very large scoreboard over the top of it. The scoreboard, which mirrors the large video board on the other end of the stadium, really completes the look of the stadium that once had metal bleachers that looked out of place and old.
As the second quarter finished up with very little action, punctuated by a punting battle, halftime was reached with a tie score of 14-14. The MSU fans were very appreciative of their Bulldogs, letting them know with the droning of the cowbells.
Ah, the cowbells.
The most annoying tradition to all opposing fan bases, but one of the most cherished to the home fanbase in all of college football.
MSU fans have collections of cowbells of all different shapes and sizes, pitches and timbres, colors and handles. Having your cowbell when you head to the stadium is synonymous with having your cell phone or wallet to those fans. The fans ring them so loudly and so often that the SEC and NCAA had to make specific rules as to when the fans can and can’t ring them while the Dawgs are on defense. Even then, the ringing can give splitting headaches to the players and fans of the opposing team, and the Bulldogs thrive off of that energy. Having those cowbells is the great equalizer that makes Davis Wade Stadium sound like a crowd of 90,000+, when in reality, the crowd in Starkvegas was a mere 61,000, and it truly makes a difference. Former Auburn wide-receiver Sammie Coates put it very bluntly, but succinctly, saying, “I hate them bells”, but his sentiments are true and reciprocated around the league and the country.
As the game progressed and the momentum continued to change hands, the fans continued to remain behind their team, taking a lead into the fourth-quarter, where one of the new, but cooler traditions occurs: the playing of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin” over the loudspeakers.
As if they were silently commanded to, the MSU fans began to all turn on their cell phone flashlights all at once and began to belt out the 1981 classic all in unison, ringing their cowbells to the beat and waving their flashlights around in unison. At that one moment, the MSU fans banded together to create something special and perhaps propel their team across the finish line for what would have been one of the biggest wins in MSU program history. As an opposing fan, it felt as if the tides were going to fully go in MSU’s favor and that the upset would be achieved that night.
However, it didn’t quite work out that way, as MSU was outscored 14-3 in the fourth quarter, including a last-second touchdown by Alabama to clinch the seven-point victory for the Tide.
The Tide’s last-second touchdown sucked the air out of the building. The fans were genuinely shocked about what had transpired right in front of their eyes. As the fans filed out of the stadium at the game’s conclusion, the sounds of “Rammer Jammer” permeated through the thick air that could be cut with a knife. The Tide had escaped, whether or not they deserved it.
As I exited the stadium, there was no ill-will directed towards me or my friends as we raced out to beat the traffic. The MSU fans were very gracious in defeat, which I was very appreciative of, having seen the ugly side of fans whose teams had lost before firsthand. As we made our way back to our cars, I looked back at the stadium and realized how awesome of an experience MSU had put on in the short amount of time I had been there, even in defeat, and was appreciative of everyone involved.
So, in short, thank you Starkville, for providing one of the best stadium experiences I’ve ever experienced. I’ll be sure to visit again in two years, and perhaps more after that.