Bulldogs Claim Wild and Wintry Independence Bowl, 43-41

December 31, 2000

SHREVEPORT, La.--  Not until he was crushed under a pile of teammates in the snow did Wayne Madkin know he had won the game.

"I broke contain ? I had a guy coming at me and I was trying to stretch it as far as I could," said the junior quarterback from Huntsville, Ala., who said he had never played in snow before.

"I knew when all these guys jumped up on me and I couldn't breath that I got in the end zone."

It was the first meeting between Texas A&M and Mississippi State since former Aggies coach Jackie Sherrill took over the Bulldogs in 1991.

"Considering everything, it's a big, big win," said Sherrill, who dodged questions about his history at Texas A&M.

Ja'Mar 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.

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.

"I've been coming close all year," Blade said of his key block.

The pregame hype revolved around Sherrill, who coached the Aggies from 1982-88, and Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum, a former assistant who took over for Sherrill in 1989.

But the game was dominated by the running of 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.

"The trekking was real hard," said the 255-pound fullback. "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.

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

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 trailing 35-28.

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

Madkin's game-winning TD came on a similar play-action pass on second-and-goal at the 6.

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.

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.

Sherrill guided the Aggies to three straight Southwestern Conference championships (1985-87). But the success was overshadowed by NCAA violations.

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

"You guys make a lot of this game that isn't there," Sherrill said. "I didn't play a down, these guys did."

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. Slocum, who has won 78 percent of his games at Texas A&M, fell to 2-8 in bowls.

About 30 minutes before kickoff snow blew into Shreveport with strong wind 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 the game, 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.


TOOMBS HAS BIG GAME--- Junior running back Ja'Mar Toombs had a huge game in the Independence Bowl, rushing for 193 yards (No. 2 in A&M bowl history) on an A&M bowl-record 35 carries (former record of 34 by Curtis Dickey, 1978 Hall of Fame Bowl). Toombs' 193 yards were the most by an Aggie since Curtis Dickey set A&M's bowl record of 276 in the 1978 Hall of Fame Bowl. Toombs set an Independence Bowl record with his 35 carries, breaking the former mark of 34 totes by Louisiana State's Rondell Mealey in the 1997 game. Toombs also scored three rushing touchdowns which set the Independence Bowl record (tie with MSU's Dontae Walker, 2000) and matched A&M's bowl record (3 by Billy Tidwell in the 1950 Presidential Cup). Toombs was A&M's first 100-yard rusher in a bowl game since a pair of Aggies - quarterback Bucky Richardson (119 yards) and running back Darren Lewis (104 yards) - went over the century mark in A&M's 65-14 victory over No. 13 Brigham Young in the 1990 Holiday Bowl. Toombs rushed the football 8 times for 73 yards on A&M's first two possession, both of which ended in touchdowns. Tonight's overtime loss marked the first time that the Aggies have lost when Toombs receives 20 or more carries in a game.

A&M's leading bowl rushers

276 Curtis Dickey 1978 Hall of Fame vs. Iowa State

193 Ja'Mar Toombs 2000 Independence Bowl

185 George Woodard 1977 Bluebonnett vs. USC

180 Mike Mosley 1977 Bluebonett vs. USC

160 Bob Smith 1950 Presidential Cup vs. Georgia

145 Robert Wilson 1989 John Hancock

OVERTIME --- Tonight's 43-41 overtime decision was A&M's first loss in an overtime game after two straight wins. Coming into tonight's game, the Aggies had posted a 28-25 overtime win over Oklahoma State in 1997 and a 33-31 overtime victory over Kansas State in the 1998 Big 12 Championship game.

FARRIS MATCHES A&M'S BOWL ACCURACY MARK --- Sophomore quarterback Mark Farris matched the A&M bowl record for completion percentage by completing 9-of-11 passes for an 81.8 percentage. Farris' completion percentage also was higher than the Independence Bowl record of .750 by A&M's Gary Kubiak in 1981, but Farris didn't have the requisite 15 completions for it to count as a record.

TEXAS SCHOOLS FALTER --- The five schools from the state of Texas - Texas A&M, Texas, Texas Christian, UTEP and Texas Tech -- to qualify for bowls in 2000 were a combined 0-5.

SNOW DAY --- Tonight's game marks the first time the Aggies have played in snow since at least the 1960s, according to A&M senior associate athletic director Billy Pickard who has been at every Aggie game since the Gene Stallings era (1965-71). Pickard recalls a sleet/snow mix with no accumulation at the 1991 Texas Christian game in Fort Worth and snow flurries with no accumulation at the 1984 Arkansas game in Fayetteville, Ark. The snow was a first for the Independence Bowl, which has had its share of bad weather but never had snow for a game.

NOTES --- Redshirt freshman Toron Wooldridge, who sat out the regular season because of academic problems, made his A&M debut tonight. On his first career play, Wooldridge made the tackle on the game's opening kickoff ... The Aggies scored a touchdown on their initial possession, marking the third time this season that the Aggies have done it and the first time since the Texas Tech contest ... The Aggies' two-touchdown lead (14-0) after the first quarter was the widest margin of the season for A&M ... Sophomore Eric Stanford was the 12th Man Kickoff Team representative against the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the 25th Sanford Independence Bowl. Stanford, who is from Robinson High School in Waco, Texas, is the 12th Man unit's leading tackler with 5 tackles in seven games. *** The Independence Bowl was Texas A&M's 26th bowl and tonight's game marked the 10th trip to a bowl in R.C. Slocum's 12 years as head coach at Texas A&M. His record in bowl games falls to 2-8.


Linebacker Brian Gamble --- "It's definitely disappointing when you lose your final game, not to mention your last three games, but we're going to learn from this and not let it happen again. We're not going to let it dishearten us or affect our play next year. Oklahoma was in this same boat last year at this time, and they were able to build on it. We're going to use it for motivation and be ready for 2001."

(on the snow) "It definitely affected our footing, but it was the same for both teams. It was interesting to play in the first snow game on FieldTurf. It was pretty fun, really. It would have been more fun if we hadn't been slipping and sliding."

Running Back Ja'Mar Toombs --- "I haven't given the records any thought. I'm a team guy and my only concern is the team.

"The snow was a problem because it kept getting caught in my cleats. I would have to start off slow or else I would slip. It was hard to get that burst that you want when you're starting off.

"It was fun for a big guy like me. If the defenders didn't have their feet and balance, then I was able to get by them."

Quarterback Mark Farris --- (on interception) "I was trying to help my team win the game and have success, but it just didn't work out. (on PAT block) "I thought it totally changed the game. It was a big momentum shift. If we make that kick then, at worst, Mississippi State could only tie us. When they blocked it and scored, then they didn't even have to kick the extra point. I'm not making excuses. They played better and won the game."

Head Coach R.C. Slocum --- "The conditions had a definite effect on the game. It limits your play selection, but both teams have to contend with the same thing. I would say that the snow probably favors a running team. People talked about all week how evenly matched Texas A&M and Mississippi State were. At the end of 60 minutes of play, the score was tied and when the game was over only two points separated the two teams, so they were obviously right. It's a bitter feeling for us and I'm sure Mississippi State is feeling pretty good on their side.