“An unexpected winter wonderland right in the heart of cajun country.”
These were the words of broadcaster Mark Jones on December 31, 2000 before the Mississippi State Bulldogs took on then Head Coach Jackie Sherrill’s own creation, the Texas A&M Aggies. The venue: Shreveport, Louisiana, for the annual independence bowl on New Year’s Eve night.
Both teams came into the game 7-4, with two very different play styles. R. C. Slocum, the Aggies’ head coach, had a wide-open offense, with a 25-year-old sophomore at quarterback. This game was only the 5th meeting between the two teams, dating all the way back to 1912, where A&M put a 41-7 shellacking on MSU.
The big story from this game, though, was that Sherill had to beat the man he brought up, his former defensive coordinator, in Slocum.
The two head coaches had very few similarities in play styles. While Sherrill and his ground and pound offense had plenty of success at MSU, Slocum ran a very spread out system. It was a high-flying offense that liked to throw the ball all over the field. One would think, then, that it would be the Aggies that would crumble in the blizzard. This was not the case.
Texas A&M started out the game with 14 straight points, until MSU running back Dontae Walker took a wide trap play to the house early in the second quarter, running behind the massive left guard Courtney Lee. At that point, the shootout began, and Walker lead the charge.
Over the course of the rest of the game, Walker tallied up 143 yards and three touchdowns on just 16 carries. His performance was just enough to send the game into overtime, with a score of 35 apiece after a tight end screen play to Donald Lee in the last minutes of regulation.
Walker and company kept MSU in the game, but it would be veteran Wayne Madkin who carried the Bulldogs all the way to the snow-laden promised land in overtime.
A&M charged into the end zone first on a one-play touchdown from their own workhorse running back, Ja’Mar Toombs -- and after that came a moment that no MSU fan has since forgotten.
The MSU front line blocked the ensuing extra point, senior defensive lineman Eugene Clinton picked up the ball and began sprinting towards the MSU end zone. He would not get far, however, as Aggies players were soon all over him.
It was then, in that moment, Bulldogs history was made. Clinton lateralled the ball to junior defensive back Julius Griffin, and he was gone. Griffith ran the remaining length of the field, putting up two points to MSU. All the Bulldogs needed next was a touchdown.
Wayne Madkin delivered that touchdown. Madkin took over in overtime, with a long rush on the opening play.
On 2nd down and goal, Sherrill and company drew up a quarterback draw that had worked multiple times earlier in the night, and work it did. Madkin dodged several tacklers on the way there, but he was ultimately able to just stretch his arm out enough to cross the plane. Madkin’s teammates piled him in the endzone, and thus, an incredible story in MSU history was finished.
The master had beaten the student, 43-41, to be exact. Coach Sherrill and his Bulldogs were doing just fine.
MSU has a chance to write another chapter this weekend, as it will travel to College Station to take on the Aggies once again.
And much like that day back in 2000, the series between the two programs is tied (currently at 7-7). Mississippi State goes into this game as an underdog with nothing to lose, and we have yet to see this year’s team in that kind of environment.
Either way, it’s sure to be another interesting Saturday, as MSU and Texas A&M kick off at 6 p.m. CT on SEC Network.