Replay: Recalling 1999 Egg Bowl, Sirmones’ big moment

Former Mississippi State tight end C.J. Sirmones was shot and killed July 26 in Lawrence County, Tenn. State fans best remember Sirmones for his game-tying catch against Ole Miss in the 1999 Egg Bowl. A reader asked if I could post my column from the next day’s newspaper. From the Nov. 26, 1999 Clarion-Ledger.

Rick Cleveland
Rick Cleveland

STARKVILLE – You never count them out. Never. Not these Bulldogs.

Down by 13 at Auburn with just over two minutes to play? No problem.

Down by six to LSU with under two minutes left? No sweat.

Down by two to Kentucky with five seconds remaining? It was in the bag.

Down by 14 to Ole Miss entering the fourth quarter of Saturday night’s Egg Bowl?

Oh, come on, let’s make it challenging.

Down by 7 with just over two minutes remaining and Ole Miss in possession at the State 31?

You gotta be kidding.

It may have looked hopeless to 41,200 fans and a national television audience, but Mississippi State’s resilient Bulldogs had the Rebels right where they wanted them.

An offense that had been so ineffective so often this season, came alive when it counted most. A defense that had been pushed and shoved around for three quarters by Ole Miss, suddenly got nasty.

And a largely partisan crowd, thousands of whom successfully smuggled in cowbells, went absolutely berserk. It was as if the fans couldn’t believe what they were seeing.

Could you?

Goalposts come down

Mississippi State 23, Ole Miss 20. Believe it.

It was the greatest comeback of a season of State comebacks. It might have been the greatest comeback in 96 years of this Ole Miss-State rivalry. For sure, it ranks right in there with Ole Miss’ storied rally in 1983 when the Rebels erased a 23-7 deficit and won 24-23. Remember? State’s Artie Cosby lined up for that last-second field goal and hit it squarely. Then, a sudden gust of wind blocked it down.

Well, here on a chilly Thanksgiving night, State’s Scott Westerfield lined up for a 44-yard field goal with just seconds to play – and he nailed it right through the goalposts. There was no miraculous gust of wind this time.

Just a miracle. And this one was State’s.

Minutes later, those same goalposts on the south end of old Scott Field came down under the weight of celebrating fans and at least one player. Fans paraded those posts down to the other end where those posts came down, too.

The goalposts cost about $3,000 a set. But believe this: Mississippi State’s administration, which most likely will now ring in the new millennium in Florida, will gladly pay the bill.

For three quarters, this game was colored all red and blue. The Rebels, with big Deuce McAllister churning behind a bigger line, controlled the line of scrimmage and appeared in complete control of a game that meant so much to both teams.

Fourth quarter was State’s

And State didn’t do much to help itself until the end. The Bulldogs had to overcome six turnovers, including four lost fumbles. They had to overcome a valiant effort by McAllister, who carried 36 bruising times for 134 yards against a defense that hadn’t given up as many as 100 yards to a runner all season.

Much-maligned Wayne Madkin made all the big throws down the stretch. His 5-yard touchdown pass to Donald Lee brought the Bulldogs to within 20-13 with 12:49 left.

His 38-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Sirmones tied it with 27 seconds remaining.

At that point, you might have expected Ole Miss to run it once, kill the clock and try to win in overtime.

The Rebels killed themselves instead. Eugene Clinton swiped Romaro Miller’s pass and raced 27 yards to the Ole Miss 26. And, from there, Westerfield nailed it.

Unbelievable? Not this season. Not these Bulldogs.

 

 

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