When the previous decade ended, the Mississippi State Bulldogs were coming off of a ten-win season and a Peach Bowl win under established head coach Jackie Sherrill.
The dawn of the new decade brought continued promise, as the Bulldogs managed to go 8-4 in 2000, including a 4-4 record in the SEC and win over Texas A&M in the Independence Bowl.
But then things took a decidedly southward turn. Over the next six years, the Bulldogs won just 17 games, hitting a nadir in Sherrill's final year, 2003, winning just twice.
During that six-year stretch, the Bulldogs were outscored in every season by at least 88 points.
But a lone bright spot shone in the midst of futility. After Sherrill, the school hired Sylvester Croom, a former NFL coach who played at Alabama for Bear Bryant. Hell, he was such a good pupil of Bryant's that they named an award after him there: The Sylvester Croom Commitment to Excellence Award.
In addition to Croom being the first African American head coach in the SEC, he was also the most relentlessy classy coach in the conference.
But despite his classiness and lauded approach to the game, he was unable to fully get the Mississippi State ship turned around. After three consecutive three-win seasons in which they won a grand total of four SEC games, he managed to lead the Bulldogs to a 8-5 overall record in 2007. That year, the Bulldogs finished tied for third in the SEC West and won their Liberty Bowl matchup with Central Florida. Croom himself garnered several post-season awards, including SEC COY from both the AP and the SEC Coaches.
All the momentum and good feeling generated by Croom's crew in 2007, however, was crushed when Croom's team opened the following season with a loss at Louisiana Tech. That loss began a familiar road for the Bulldogs, one that ended with a 45-0 shellacking at the hands of Ole Miss and a 4-8 overall record, 2-6 in the SEC. That return to antidominance resulted in Croom's resignation, and the hiring of Dan Mullen, former Florida OC.
Mullen was able to achieve several moral and five actual victories.
The Bulldogs played LSU, Florida, and Georgia Tech close, and achieved actual victories against Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and hated rival Ole Miss.
With that finish, State fans are again -- perhaps warily -- looking forward to better things in 2010 and beyond. It could hardly get worse.