By Jerry Rice’s senior year at Mississippi Valley State, coach Archie Cooley had refined his no-huddle offense into a machine that dominated most opponents. The Delta Devils went 9-1 in 1984, scored 60.9 points per game, and had nearly 500 yards passing per game. In the playoffs though, they lost 66-19 to Louisiana Tech in their first game.
Alcorn State defensive coordinator Theo Danzy, whose team beat the Devils, 42-28, said: “When you’re trying to stop them, you start by saying, ‘Our Father who art in Heaven.'”
Cooley said: “I give my coaches money out of my pocket to go see kids. We got no money. But we got a dream, and so do these kids.
“They’re from sharecropper families. They just been living day to day. They don’t know disappointment because they never had anything.
“Eighty percent of them are the first child in their family who’ll ever graduate from college. I tell ’em all success is about work. Not eight hours, not no nine-to-five. It’s about work – 16, 18 hours a day. It’s about getting up in the middle of the night because you got an idea.”
Cooley also said: “We had a little cafe down in Laurel in the ’50s. Back then, if you were black, you couldn’t go downtown with shades on because someone might say you were looking at a white girl.
“One day, this white guy came in and ordered coffee. My Momma made it. He said it was too sweet, and he poured it on my Momma’s hand. She screamed. Daddy came out of the kitchen and turned him over.
“You didn’t do that to a white man then if you didn’t want trouble, but he hit that white man over my Momma. Right then he became the greatest man that ever walked to me.
“From that day on, if I knew I was right, I didn’t fear no man. If we’re all equal, than say what you believe.”
Cooley typically used formations that had five wideouts, and he used them to beat Kentucky State, 86-0, in the first game of the season. Rice caught 24 passes for 294 yards, and Willie Totten threw 9 touchdown passes. The 716 total yards, including 699 passing yards, set a new Division I-AA record, by a full 113 yards. The next game, MVSU beat Washburn College, 77-15. In October, they beat Prairie View, 71-6. This time, they had 761 total yards for a new record, and Willie Totten threw for 599 yards, setting a new single-game record. In their last game of the regular season, they were up 41-3 at the end of the first quarter.
Rice said: “This has turned into something I could never have dreamed of. This has turned into a future. I’ve had it hard. Hard as it could get. My father tried to help, but there were so many of us.
“I got a chance now, but I wasn’t even a player until the 10th grade. I was skipping a class, and an instructor slipped behind me and scared me. I took off running.
“I ran so fast that he couldn’t catch me, so he ran to the football coach and told him he’d just seen the fastest class skipper ever. That’s how it started.”