' ' Cinema Romantico: My Favorite College Football Games: Game 11

Saturday, November 09, 2019

My Favorite College Football Games: Game 11

December 31, 2000 (Independence Bowl): Mississippi State - 43 Texas A&M - 41 (OT)

If there have been umpteen Games of the Century in college football, so too have there been frequent iterations of the so-called Snow Bowl. This, as the name implies, is when a game winds up contested in snowy conditions. Flurries, of course, don’t count; just snow. The 1950 Michigan/Ohio State game was a Snow Bowl, waged during The Great Appalachian Storm, and the dramatic 1992 Notre Dame/Penn State game, when an inch of snow covered the field by game’s end, earned that label too. Really, though, Snow Bowls are abundant. Last year I watched a good chunk of Wyoming beating Air Force just because it was played in a descending blanket of the picturesque white stuff. There is no one official Snow Bowl, nor should there be, but for a good part of the CFB populace, I suspect, the sort that has been around long enough to claim the Independence Bowl’s one true sponsor as Poulan Weed Eater, the one true Snow Bowl is the 2000 Independence Bowl between the Mississippi State Bulldogs and Texas A&M Aggies. This game, after all, was held not in the Pacific Northwest or Upper Midwest but down on the bayou, so to speak, in northwest Louisiana. If storms in that area trend toward rain or sleet, on New Year’s Eve 2000 it turned into snow, and by the grace of the college football gods the blizzard blew into Shreveport just as the game commenced, meaning its entirety was played in falling snow, not simply disappearing the yard lines, so that occasionally, if you weren’t paying attention, a touchdown could just materialize out of nowhere, but frequently falling in chunks so large they were detectable on screen; football has never been so visually glorious.

The unfortunate irony of so many Snow Bowls, alas, is how rarely they evoke their own weird, woolly weather; whiteout conditions are not optimal for coordinating eleven players. It’s why most accounts of the 1950 Snow Bowl stress how it was hardly a game at all. The 2000 Independence Bowl, on the other hand, lived its meteorological insanity out. Not just in madcap adventures, like woebegone kickoffs, a fumble on the very first play of the game, an interception setting up the tying touchdown in regulation, or even the blocked extra point in the ensuing overtime the Bulldogs returned with help of a loony lateral at the 50-yard line resulting in the extremely rare 97-yard two-point conversion. No, the game was an improbable offensive explosion, rife with long runs and deep passes. And though he lost, the Aggies’ legendary 281-pound running back Ja’Mar Toombs earned the game's MVP anyway, a beast on figurative ice skates, navigating the snowy field with ease to the tune of 193 yards and three touchdowns.

Now you, astute reader, are probably wondering why I, hep cat, was home on New Year’s Eve watching a football game. The details are simple yet boring and beside the point. The point is, in a sport the ungainly size of college football, with too many teams (116 in 2000) and too many bowl games (25 the same season), the potential for epic insanity looms at every kickoff. You never know when delightful madness might strike; you never know when the game of the year might happen. Sometimes you catch it; sometimes you don’t. The national championship game was played three nights later in the Orange Bowl, but who remembers that humdrum affair? As unlikely as a Shreveport blizzard, the Independence Bowl turned out to be the season’s best game. All I can say is, I hope you were lucky enough to stay home to see it.

No comments: