State wins Independence
By By Richard Dark/The Meridian Star
Jan. 1, 2001
SHREVEPORT, La. In the midst of the dawning of a new millennium, the Mississippi State Bulldogs had to ring out the old habit of losing overtime games.
In a rare snow-covered Independence Bowl in front of a frozen crowd of 36,974, that's exactly what they did.
Wayne Madkin made up for a poor passing performance early with a 6-yard touchdown run in the extra session to give the Bulldogs (8-4) a scintillating 43-41 win over the Texas A&M Aggies in front of a frozen crowd of 36,974.
Not even after Aggies running back Ja'Mar Tooms scored from 25 yards out on the first play of OT.
Willie Blade bled through and blocked the Terrence Kitchens' extra point and lateraled to cornerback Julius Griffith, who raced all the way to the end zone for the two-point defensive conversion that pulled MSU to within 41-37. Madkin's winning score came on third down. Donald Lee snagged a 3-yard loft from Madkin over an onrushing line with 1:30 to go in regulation that forced only the third OT bowl game ever.
In the furious scoring final frame a 32-yard TD run by Donte' Walker made him the first player in I-Bowl history to rush for three touchdowns. His record breaking score pulled MSU to within 35-28 with 8:17 left, but State missed a shot to tie the contest with 5:40 left when a TD pass from quarterback Wayne Madkin to former East Mississippi standout Larry Huntington was called back by an offensive pass interference penalty.
Bethel Johnson's 35-yard touchdown catch and the followup two-point run just nine seconds into the fourth quarter gave the Aggies (7-5) a 28-21 lead. It was an impressive eight play, 83 yard production that took off 3:45.
The only real stoppage for State was Madkin, whose subpar 9-of-19 outing that included only 71 yards, hindered the Dogs. Fortunately, the tandem of Walker and Dicenzo Miller picked up the slack. The pair combined for 291 yards on 27 carries, including 143 by Walker.
The Aggies showed right away that they were a tad more adept at playing in the white stuff when they recovered a State fumble on the first MSU play from scrimmage. A&M parlayed the Wayne Madkin gaffe into a quick six. Rich Whitaker ran it in from 9-yards out to cap a four-play, 26-yard touchdown drive that lasted 1:47. Terrence Kitchens added the first of four PAT kicks in the swirling snow.
After MSU was stuffed on the ensuing series, A&M came right back with a 34-yard burst from Tooms, who rushed for 193 yards on 35 carries. His big run, coupled with another for 19, led to his 4-yard TD bust to give the Aggies a commanding 14-0 lead with 8:06 to go in the first quarter.
But State would get stung right before the half. On their very first play following the kickoff, Aggie quarterback Mark Farris, who was 9 for 11 for 133 yards, threw a 42-yard bomb to receiver Robert Ferguson for the 20-14 lead. That's the way it stayed, as Kitchens extra-point try was partially blocked.
And despite a big 42-yard kickoff return by Huntington, the Bulldogs could only get close before time expired.
State received a nice gift to open the second half when Mario Haggan recovered a Whitaker fumble at the Aggie 13-yard line.
A personal foul penalty on A&M set MSU up with a first-and-goal. Three plays later, Dontae Walker tied the game at 20 with a 1-yard TD dive through the line. Scott Westerfield broke the momentary deadlock with the successful PAT kick at the 11:55 mark of the third frame.
Richard Dark is a sports writer for the Meridian Star. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.