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Co-Lin players help Miss. State win Snow Bowl

Folks are still talking about the Sanford Independence Bowl. Itwill always be remembered as the 2000 Snow Bowl. Played in a rareShreveport, La., blizzard last Sunday night, the Mississippi StateBulldogs managed to beat Texas A&M 43-41 in overtime, with thehelp of five former Copiah-Lincoln Community College players.

There were plenty of heroes in the epic struggle. In Co-Lin’scase, Julius Griffith of Magee scored some unexpected points forthe Bulldogs. Texas A&M had scored on its first possession inovertime and lined up for the extra point attempt.

MSU defensive tackle Willie Blade knifed through the line andblocked the PAT kick. That’s when the play became more bizarre.Bulldog Eugene Clinton scooped up the football as it shivered inthree inches of snow. Clinton was quickly tackled but he managed tolateral the ball to Griffith who raced to the other end of thefield for a 2-point return.

Griffith’s twin brother is fullback Justin Griffith who wentstraight to MSU from Magee. Another key player with Co-Lin roots isoffensive guard Tommy Watson.

Watson and his buddies in the offensive line helped clear theway for quarterback Wayne Madkin’s winning TD run. Two more Co-Linplayers in the game were wide receiver Clarence Parker anddefensive back Marco Minor, both of Natchez. It was Minor who madea key interception to kill an Aggie touchdown drive. Another Co-Linplayer who watched from the sidelines was reserve center JoeyHydrick of Hazlehurst (Copiah Academy).

It was a tremendous, inspiring comeback for the Bulldogs whospotted A&M an early 14-0 lead as snow nearly obliterated theyard lines before the kickoff. They were down 35-21 with 9 minutesleft in the third quarter.

Another former Co-Lin player who performed well on New Year’sDay was nose guard Cleveland Pinkney of South Carolina. TheGamecocks roughed up Ohio State 24-7 in the Outback Bowl. Pinkneymade the cover of the South Carolina media guide this year.

It was a remarkable turnaround for Coach Lou Holtz and theGamecocks. They were winless in 11 games in 1999 but finished 8-4this season. Around 27,000 dedicated fans followed the Gamecocks toTampa, Fla. Certainly, the Sunshine State’s cash registers wereringing in the new year with profits.

Anthony Sessions, another Co-Lin product, played well in theCotton Bowl. Most of the Volunteers didn’t and they were manhandledby a Kansas State wrecking crew which featured 14 JUCO players onthe roster.

Sessions, from Warner Robins, Ga., is expected to be a middleround draft pick when the NFL holds its draft day. A tremendousathlete, Sessions even played some quarterback toward the end ofhis sophomore year at Co-Lin.

New Co-Lin head coach Dave Cross was recruiting in the Carolinasbefore Christmas and every South Carolina coach he encountered hadhigh praise for Pinkney. Cross, Co-Lin’s defensive coordinator forfive years, replaced Phil Broome who resigned in November. Broomeserved as head coach for six years, compiling a 30-30 record. TheWolves finished an injury-filled 2000 campaign with a 3-7worksheet.

Cross said former Co-Lin wide receiver Gerald Payne set a numberof records this past season at Harding (Ark.) University. Hardingcompetes in the Gulf South Conference.

Another Co-Lin alum, tailback Travis Short of Hazlehurst, had agood year making the transition at the University of Wyoming.

According to Cross, two Co-Lin players from the 2000 team,defensive end Keeshan Lowe and offensive tackle Chris Thigpen, havemade verbal commitments to sign with Louisville, the current C-USAchampion. Cross is in the hunt for a new offensive coordinator andan offensive line coach.

Those are two key positions Cross must fill. He would like tohave his staff organized before spring practice begins in February.Co-Lin has some exceptional skill players returning in quarterbackDenard Parks, fullbacks Lorenzo Townsend and Aaron Yarborough,tailback Darius Bingham and wide receivers Odell Bradley, TracyBarlow, Michael Loving and Marcus Shannon.

What Co-Lin needs the most are some big, strong and quickoffensive linemen to provide protection next season.