The walls of Mississippi College’s Nelson Hall are adorned with photographs and mementos of milestones from Mississippi College’s storied, nearly two-century history. “From the Time Capsule” takes a look back at some of those unforgettable moments.
On a snow-covered football field in December of 1989, the Mississippi College Choctaws knocked off the Jacksonville State Gamecocks to claim the NCAA Division II National Championship game. But the story of the championship started weeks before the final game with a rainstorm of Biblical proportion, a miraculous upset, and faith that with God, anything was possible.
The Choctaws’ excitement over the playoffs was tempered by the fact that their first-round opponent would be the Texas A&I Javelinas, the #1 team in Division II. The previous year, the Javelinas had crushed the Choctaws 39-15, building a five-touchdown lead before halftime. The week before the playoff game against MC, A&I trounced the #2 team in the nation 42-3. The Javelinas brought an 11-0 record into the playoffs. No team had come within five touchdowns of beating them all season. The Choctaws would face A&I on their home field in Kingsville, Texas, where they hadn’t lost a game in seven years.
“Our 11 plus God? We can take those odds.”
“This was the best Division II football team in the history of the sport. No other Division II team deserved to be on the field with them,” Ron Frank ’88, the 1989 Choctaw team’s wide receiver, recalls. “This was a game that MC simply could not win. The odds were too impossible.”
Charged with leading the Choctaws’ pre-game devotional, Frank stood in the locker room and shared the story of Gideon, who faced an army of 135,000 soldiers with just 300 men.
“When you look at the story of Gideon, no one would have accepted those odds, either,” Frank told his teammates. “Yet, with 300 men plus God, they won the battle. God wanted the odds to be so stacked against them that the only way to explain the victory would be divine intervention. Our Mississippi College 11 against Texas A&I’s 11? No way. But our 11 plus God? We can take those odds.”
Even before the kickoff, it was clear that this game day in Kingsville would be like no other. The town experienced a torrential rainstorm – the first rain on game day in recent history. In the story of Gideon, the 135,000 soldiers became confused and began battling one another. In the story of the 11 + 1, the Javelinas became confused and began committing turnovers, losing the ball to the Choctaws an unprecedented seven times.
The final score? Texas A&I 19, Mississippi College 34.
After the win, “11 + 1” became the Choctaws’ battle cry. The team wore shirts printed with the message “11 + 1” under their uniforms as they continued their march to the National Championship. The Mississippi College championship season of 1989 stands as a reminder that any army, any team – in fact, anyone, anywhere – plus God can defeat any opponent.
“As that last second ticked off the clock, I remember thinking that I was experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime moment,” Frank says. “We played a part in the slaying of a giant. I’ve shared the 11 + 1 story many times over the years, but I don’t think I’ve ever faced those kinds of odds in my life since. Eleven plus 1 is more than just a football story. It’s a God-given testimony that needs to be shared and remembered.”