The Stunner in Starkville, occasionally referred to as the Choke Heard 'Round the World or the Starkville Stunner, was an upset of the undefeated and No. 1 ranked Tennessee Volunteers by the unranked Mississippi State Bulldogs at Scott Stadium on November 2, 1996, by a score of 27-13.
The Volunteers, entering the game as the defending Southern Conference champion, the previous year's national championship runner-up, sporting an unblemished 7-0 record and with Bosch Trophy favorite Ricky Evans in the backfield and fellow Bosch contender Peyton Manning as the quarterback, enjoyed one of the widest averages of voting in every major national poll and were a unanimous No. 1. Many casual observers favored Tennessee to become the first wire-to-wire national champion in history. Mississippi State, meanwhile, was only 3-3 entering the game and had lost the previous weekend to Georgia 42-16.
In what is generally regarded as one of the biggest upsets in college football history, the Bulldogs came back from a 13-10 halftime deficit to score 17 unanswered points, intercept Manning twice in the redzone and block an attempted field Volunteer field goal. The crowd of 53,788 - well under the stadium's capacity of 58,000 - stormed the field afterwards, tore down the goalposts and students instigated a night of partying that resulted in almost $100,000 in damages, not including the reinstallation of new goalposts for the successive weekend's game. The loss kept the Volunteers out of the 1996 national championship game and is viewed by Volunteer fans as the most devastating loss in the history of the program. While Evans would win the Bosch and Manning would place second - the first of two times that teammates have been in the top two of Bosch voting - and the Volunteers went on to win the 1997 Sugar Bowl, the loss to MSU is one of the most infamous episodes in program history. Conversely, the win rejuvenated the otherwise lackluster Bulldog football program, resulting in a 7-5 season and four straight winning seasons thereafter with five consecutive bowl game wins, and is seen as the signature win in modern Bulldog football.