• 63°

Mississippi St. does snow job on AM

The Associated Press

SHREVEPORT, La.

Tuesday, January 02, 2001

SHREVEPORT, La. – If beating his former team made Jackie Sherrill’s latest coaching victory extra special, he wasn’t letting on.

Sherrill’s Mississippi State Bulldogs beat Texas A&M 43-41 in overtime on Sunday night in the snowy Independence Bowl.

Quarterback Wayne Madkin scored the game-winning touchdown on a 6-yard scramble after the Bulldogs’ special teams scored a 2-point defensive conversion off a blocked extra-point attempt.

It was the first meeting between Texas A&M (7-5) and Mississippi State (8-4) since Sherrill, who coached the Aggies from 1982-88, took over the Bulldogs in 1991.

”Considering everything, it’s a big, big win,” said Sherrill, who dodged questions about his history with Texas A&M.

”You guys make a lot of this game that isn’t there,” he said. ”I didn’t play a down, these guys did.”

Sherrill guided the Aggies to three straight Southwestern Conference championships in 1985-87, but the success was overshadowed by NCAA violations.

He downplayed the significance of facing his former employer, though he had publicly stated he was hoping to face the Aggies when the bowl pairings were being sorted.

After the game, he was carried off the field by his players.

Sherrill, the winningest coach in Mississippi State history, improved to 2-4 in bowl games with the Bulldogs and 8-6 overall. R.C. Slocum, promoted from defensive coordinator to replace Sherrill in ’89, has won nearly 76 percent of his games with Texas A&M, but is just 2-8 in bowls.

While the pregame hype revolved around coaches, the game was dominated by the running of Texas A&M’s Ja’Mar Toombs and Mississippi State’s Dontae Walker, and the rare Southern snowfall that covered the field.

Toombs ran for 193 yards and three touchdowns on 35 carries.

Walker matched Toombs with three touchdowns, along with 143 yards on 16 carries.

Ultimately, Madkin, the junior quarterback from Huntsville, Ala., who had never played in snow, was the hero.

Toombs had a 25-yard touchdown run on the Aggies’ first play of overtime to give Texas A&M a 41-35 lead, but Terence Kitchen’s extra-point attempt was blocked by Willie Blade.

”I’ve been coming close all year,” Blade said of his key block.

Eugene Clinton scooped the blocked kick out of the snow and before he could be pulled down at midfield, he flipped the ball back to Julius Griffith who raced to the end zone for a 2-point defensive conversion. That made the score 41-37 and gave the Bulldogs a chance to win it with a TD.

Madkin’s 19-yard run got the ball to the 6-yard line, then on second-and-goal, he got loose again.

”I broke contain … I had a guy coming at me and I was trying to stretch it as far as I could,” he said. ”I knew when all these guys jumped up on me and I couldn’t breath that I got in the end zone.”

Mississippi State rallied from 14 points down with two touchdowns in the final 8:16 of the fourth quarter.

An interception by Marco Minor deep in Texas A&M territory gave the Bulldogs a first-and-goal at the Aggies 4 with 2:50 left in the game and trailing 35-28.

On third down, Madkin faked a handoff and found Donald Lee alone in the snow-covered end zone for a 3-yard touchdown pass to tie it with 1:30 left.

Toombs was especially effective early, running for 73 yards and a touchdown on Texas A&M’s first two series, and helping the Aggies grab a 14-0 lead.

”The trekking was real hard,” the 255-pound fullback said. ”It was hard to really burst with the ball. I had to slow down before I could get going.”

But once he got going, he plowed through the snow and Mississippi State.

”For a big guy like me it’s fun,” he said.

Mississippi State managed to slow Toombs in the second and third quarters, but he got rumbling again in the fourth quarter. His 13-yard TD run with 9:20 left gave the Aggies a 35-21 lead.

Walker scored his third touchdown on a 32-yard run on the ensuing Mississippi State drive to cut the lead to 35-28 at 8:17.

About 30 minutes before kickoff, snow blew into Shreveport with strong winds whipping from one end zone to the other.

The game started with the synthetic grass field a mix of green and white. By the second quarter, the turf was blanketed by snow. Plows were used during timeouts to make the goal lines, end lines and hash marks visible.

Snow fell throughout, at times coming down so hard it made watching the game like looking through television static. Many of the 36,974 fans at Independence Stadium left at halftime.