60 Minutes of Hell
It was an offensive scheme that was way ahead of its time. If you were a running back on this team, you never left the bench. No sir, this was a passing juggernaut that moved across the gridiron with speed and precision. Opponents couldn’t stop it they could only hope to slow it down.
The team was the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils. The offense was the Satellite Express.
A Gunslinger Arrives
Prior to 1980, the Delta Devils (a member of the SWAC) were strictly a running team. In fact, in the 1979 season, MVSU only passed 133 times all season. But that all changed when a former Tennessee State assistant coach arrived on campus in Itta Bena, MS. Archie “The Gunslinger” Cooley took over as head coach of MVSU in the 1980 season.
At Tennessee State, Cooley was an assistant coach in charge of the scout team. He developed offensive plays to run against the first string in practice. His playbook consisted of hundreds of plays. They were the type of plays that any local neighborhood kid playing quarterback in a pickup game could draw up in the dirt, using twigs and bottle caps.
And they worked.
Cooley coached the Delta Devils from 1980–1986 and recorded three winning seasons. None were more exciting and set more records than the 1984 season.
The Satellite Express Takes the SWAC by Storm
Cooley’s offense was directed by QB Wille “Satellite” Totten, whose favorite target was a wide receiver with flypaper on his hands named Jerry Rice. The offense became known as the “Satellite Express.”
The offense consisted of five receiver sets, sometimes lined up in the slots, other times they lined up in a devastating formation known as a “stack.” In this formation, four WRs lined up single file on one side with a single WR on the other side.
At the snap of the ball, the receivers adjusted their routes and found open space to make plays. The defense didn’t know what hit them. In addition, the Delta Devils ran this offense with NO huddle.
Essentially, they ran the 2-minute drill for the entire game. 60 minutes of hell!
1984 Season (9–2)
In 1984, MVSU was coming off a 7–2–1 record the previous season in which Rice set a division 1-AA record with 102 catches for 1450 yards.
In the first game of the ’84 season, the Delta Devils embarrassed Kentucky State 86–0. Rice caught 17 passes for 294 yards and five touchdowns. Totten threw nine TD passes that day.
The next week, MVSU destroyed Washburn 77–15. Rice caught 15 balls for 139 yards and a touchdown. Totten completed 36 of 55 passes for 402 yards and six touchdowns. He did throw an INT.
In week 3, Miss Valley St. took on Jackson State. The Delta Devils had not beaten JSU in 27 years. Totten threw for 526 yards and six TDs against JSU. Rice caught 15 of Totten’s passes for 284 yards and four scores in a 49–32 win over JSU.
Against the Southern Jaguars in week 4, Totten again threw for 526 yards and 6 touchdowns in a 63–45 win. Rice hauled in 17 passes for 189 yards and 2 TDs.
Vs. Grambling: Rice- 8 catches, 174 yards, 2 TDs. Totten-545 yards passing.
Vs. Texas Southern: Rice-4 catches, 104 yards, 2 TDs.
Vs. Prairie View A&M: Totten-599 passing yards, 8 TDs. Rice-10 catches, 198 yards, 5 touchdowns.
November 3, 1984: The Gunslinger vs The Godfather
Late in the season, a mass of humanity (63,000+ fans) converged on Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson to watch the undefeated Alcorn State Braves (6–0), coached by Marino Casem, take on the undefeated Delta Devils (7–0) of MVSU. Those in attendance set a stadium record.
Cooley was the “Gunslinger”, Casem was known as “The Godfather.”
MVSU came into the game averaging a “fitting” 666 yards of offense and 64 points per game. Totten had thrown for 3530 yards and 43 TDs, and Rice had caught 86 passes on the season.
Totten had operated all season behind an offensive line that averaged 280 pounds per man, but on this day, Totten was harassed all day. He threw two INTs, including a pick six. Rice caught eight passes for 134 yards in a 42–28 loss. It was the first loss of the season for MVSU.
Div. 1-AA Playoffs
MVSU followed up the loss to Alcorn with two wins against Alabama State and Langston, outscoring them by a combined score of 132–18.
The Delta Devils entered the Div. 1-AA Playoffs vs the Bulldogs of La. Tech. Rice caught 9 passes for 155 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown. But it wasn’t enough as MVSU went down 66–19.
The Delta Devils finished the 1984 season at 9–2, a school record for wins in a season.
Rice finished the 1984 campaign with 112 catches for 1845 yards and 27 touchdowns.
Totten finished with 4557 passing yards and 58 touchdowns.
The Delta Devils averaged 59 points per game in that epic ’84 season.
Rice finished his college career with 301 catches, 4851 yards, and 50 touchdowns, with three 1000+ yard seasons. He was named All-SWAC three times.
He was selected #16 overall (1st Round) of the 1985 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers and went on to a Hall of Fame career.
Rice is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame (2006), the SWAC Hall of Fame (2005), the Black College Football Hall of Fame (2010), the Pro Football Hall of Fame (2010).
The stadium on the campus of Mississippi Valley State was renamed Rice-Totten Stadium in honor of Rice and Willie Totten.
During Rice’s college career, the Delta Devils posted a 21–9–1 record.
Totten earned All-American honors for his efforts in the 1984 season. For his college career, Totten passed for 12,711 yards. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame (2005) and MVSU Hall of Fame (2006), and the Black College Football Hall of Fame (2014).
Totten earned his master’s degree from Grambling State University and served as a graduate assistant under legendary coach Eddie Robinson. He later became head coach at MVSU in 2002 until 2009.
Thanks for reading.
If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe to my feed. Also, I’d love for you to read a few other articles I’ve written:
A Quartet of Power and Speed, and a Ghost
It was a spectacle of gridiron talent that kept fans on their feet in anticipation of the next big play that was…
1987-A Glorious Time to be a Fan of the ‘Cuse
Whether it was football or basketball, the Carrier Dome was rocking.