Weather has a funny way of changing the landscape of sports, as we know it. Rain delays in baseball are as common as three-run homers. Blustery days can turn a pass-happy offense in football into a power-I smash mouth team. Watching sporting events in the elements is one of the more thrilling parts of fandom.
As Blacksburg is in the midst of its worst snowstorm this millennium, this brought to mind some of the more exciting “blizzard bowls” in recent memory.
1999 Independence Bowl: Mississippi State 43, Texas A & M 41 (2OT) – December 31.
Dubbed “The Snow Bowl” in Starkville and College Station lore, the Bulldogs and Aggies were hit just hours before kickoff with a powerful snowstorm. The game pitted two teams that both relied on strong running games already; it was a busy night for Ja’Mar Toombs of the Aggies and Dontae Walker for the Bulldogs.
The Aggies jumped out to a seemingly commanding 14-0 lead in the first quarter, thanks to a score from Toombs and one from Richard Whitaker. Missisippi State recovered, scoring back-to-back touchdowns to even the game, before an Aggie just seconds before halftime made it 20-14.
By this point, the surface resembled more of a hockey rink than a football field, with the snow falling far too fast for the groundskeepers to clear away. Nearly half of the nearly 37,000 fans in attendance left during halftime.
Those fans might have been warm for an extra two hours, but they missed one of the most fantastic finishes to a bowl game ever.
The Bulldogs led 21-20 heading into the final quarter, but two Aggie touchdowns made the score 35-21 with the time dwindling away. Walker would score on a 32-yard run with over three minutes left to bring the Bulldogs within a touchdown.
On the ensuing Aggie possession, Bulldog safety Macro Minor intercepted a Mark Farris pass on the A & M 5-yard line, setting up a 3-yard pass from Wayne Madkin to Donald Lee for the game-tying touchdown.
At 35-35, the game went into overtime, and only then did true chaos ensue.
On the first play of the extra session, Toombs took the handoff and rumbled 25 yards for a score. On the extra point attempt, Willie Blade broke through the line of scrimmage and blocked the kick; Eugene Clinton scooped the ball off the powdery ground for the Bulldogs. Just as he was being tackled, he tossed the ball aside to teammate Jul Griffith, who ran untouched the rest of the way for two points, making the score 41-37 in favor of A & M.
Madkin carried the ball around the edge on the first offensive play for the Bulldogs and was not brought down before reaching the six-yard line. After Walker was brought down for a loss on the next play, Madkin carried the ball again, this time racing into the end zone, diving across the barely visible goalline, for the game-winning score.
Madkin’s touchdown capped off a once-in-a-lifetime game, and turned out to be the final score of the 20th century.
There’s an answer to a trivia question someday.