If the dozens of college football bowl games played every year have taught fans anything, it is that a thriller can be born anywhere. This proved the case when future SEC rivals Mississippi State and Texas A&M took the field for the Sanford Independence Bowl on Dec. 31, 2000.
The matchup was intriguing even before the kickoff as MSU coach Jackie Sherrill prepared to meet his former assistant and the man who had replaced him as Texas A&M’s head coach in 1989, R.C. Slocum. But when a freak blizzard also battered northern Louisiana on game day, it made for the wildest, most enjoyable bowl game of the season.
The crowd that watched as the white stuff thickly blanketed Independence Stadium in Shreveport, La., was not accustomed to dense snow. Nor was either team, but they managed to keep things warm with impressive rushing attacks that produced plenty of fireworks. The Bulldogs were led on the ground by Dontae Walker, who was almost evenly matched by A&M’s Ja’Mar Toombs.
The game was a scoring frenzy, back and forth, back and forth. For example, an adrenaline-charged 40-yard rushing touchdown by Walker was almost immediately overshadowed by a 42-yard pass from quarterback Mark Farris to wide receiver Robert Ferguson for an Aggie lead. Neither team could hold the advantage for long at all.
Regulation was mostly a blur of hard-nosed running backs pounding through a blizzard, and those fans who could see anything in the blinding snow were treated to a real battle as Toombs and Walker ran wild. Toombs finished with 193 yards rushing and Walker 143 as the two teams played to a 35-35 tie at the end of regulation.
When overtime began, many fans had already left despite the electrifying shootout they had seen to that point. The cold was simply too unbearable. Toombs apparently was ready to get to the warm locker room because he wasted no time breaking a 25-yard touchdown run on the first play of overtime to give A&M a 41-35 lead. Things looked bleak for the Bulldogs.
Then an absolute miracle happened. As the ball rocketed off Aggie kicker Terence Kitchen’s foot for the extra point attempt, it met the meaty hand of MSU defensive tackle Willie Blade. Eugene Clinton, a senior defensive back for MSU, scooped it up and headed for the end zone. However, when an A&M tackler began to pull him down at midfield, he lateraled the ball to teammate Julius Griffin, who covered the remaining distance for two points to make it 41-37 Aggies. On the next possession, MSU quarterback Wayne Madkin punched in a 7-yard touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 43-41 win in the snowy shootout in Shreveport. H&A