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Independence Bowl History: Football, Fans, & Patriotism- By: Tom Pace

Independence Bowl History: Football, Fans, & Patriotism- By: Tom Pace

Posted by: Tom Pace - February 18, 2008

Independence Bowl History: Football, Fans, & Patriotism
By Tom Pace

It all started 32 years ago, in 1975. when the board of directors of the Shreveport-Bossier City Sports Foundation conceived the idea of bringing a postseason football game to northwest Louisiana. Applying to the National Collegiate Athletic Association for certification, the group’s efforts were rewarded with the approval of a December 13, 1976 game.

Why ‘The Independence Bowl’?  Very simple. In honor of the United States’ 200th birthday, and the strong military presence in the Shreveport-Bossier City area, the Sports Foundation’s board of directors felt that the name “Independence Bowl” would be a fitting tribute to the men and women who have fought for the United States’ freedom and independence.

The Southland Conference (SLC) provided the host team for the first five years of the event.  It proved to be a good working relationship, until 1981.

That’s when a major turning point in the development of the Independence Bowl occurred. The Directors of the bowl ended their agreement with the SLC, which provided them the opportunity to scour the country for the best teams available in the NCAA Division I-A ranks.

The Independence Bowl struck gold in 1981, as the Aggies of Texas A&M traveled over from College Station, Texas, battled the Cowboys of Oklahoma State. This storied rivalry between the Southwest Conference and Big-Eight Conference drew national attention to the Shreveport-Bossier City area.

The Ole Miss  Rebels returned to Shreveport in 1986, edging the Texas Tech Red Raiders, 20-17 in Independence Bowl XI.  That crowd of 46,359 fans set an Independence Bowl attendance mark which stood until 1990.

The first Poulan/Weedeater Bowl In 1990, pitted Louisiana Tech against Maryland.  The Bulldogs drove 60 miles down I-20 to take on the Terrapins in an offensive explosion.  It was another record breaking crowd, 48,325 filled Independence Stadium to see THE BOWL’s ONLY TIE GAME: 34-34.

The Georgia Bulldogs battled the Arkansas Razorbacks in 1991,  Auburn Freshman QB Eric Zeier took the Bulldogs to a 24-15 victory over the Hogs.

In 1995, The Poulan/Weed Eater Independence Bowl  took another giant step. This time, in their climb up the ladder of postseason games, bowl officials signed a three-year agreement with the Southeastern Conference for the fifth selection from one of the nation’s premier football conferences.

Yet another Independence Bowl milestone in 1995, with its greatest success to date: a sellout crowd of 48,835 watched in-state favorite LSU battle Michigan State.  The Spartans lost to the Tigers 45-26, as the two teams put on an offensive clinic, with 28 points were scored in less than two minutes of play.  (This would be a game that Michigan State head Coach Nick Saban would always remember, in more ways than one.)

In 1996, the 10-1 Army Cadets took on the Auburn Tigers, in the 21st annual Independence Bowl.  Here it was:  traditional football power, Auburn taking on Army in Shreveport, Louisiana.  It almost seemed as if there would be little fight left in Army, as they fell behind 32-7 going into the fourth quarter. But the Cadets rallied back, scoring 22 points in the final period, and with nervous Tiger fans watching, Army’s kicker let a 27-yard field goal attempt go wide right, giving the Tigers a 32-29 win over the Cadets.

The biggest Sell-Out crowd ever, came to see the 1997 Independence Bowl. It was a season rematch between the LSU Tigers, and Fighting Irish of Notre Dame,   LSU avenged a previous loss earlier that season, by soundly  the Irish 27-9, in front of 50,459, mainly Tiger fans.  It is a record attendance that still stands today.

When Poulan/Weed Eater dropped its title sponsorship in 1997, Glen Krupica, Independence Bowl Executive Director, and a search committee went to work.  It was a yeoman task, finding the second title sponsor of the Independence Bowl…but, in just  under a year Sanford stepped up as the new title sponsor, signing on for three years.

The first Sanford Independence Bowl in 1998 hosted Ole Miss and Texas Tech in a rematch of their 1986 game. The Red Raiders came into the game as heavy favorites, but the Rebels had a different idea. Ole Miss dominated. At the end of the game, the scoreboard read: Ole Miss 35- Texas Tech 18.

The 24th Independence Bowl in 1999 was a golly-whopper.  The Oklahoma Sooners made their return to the bowl scene with a trip to Shreveport. Ole Miss returning for a record fourth time, was their opponents. The Sooners took the early lead,  but Ole Miss fought back, and by the end of the night, won the nail-biter 27-25, over Oklahoma.  P.S. ‘Believe it or Not’, that game was the last football game of the year, and the first game of the new millennium in the eastern time zone, ending at 12:03 a.m. (The next year Coach Bob Stoops & the Sooners would go on to be National Champions.)

The Most Popular ESPN Classic Game is the 2000 ‘Snow Bowl’. It happened when Texas A&M and Mississippi State. met in the 25th anniversary game. A driving snowstorm  began during pre-game warm-ups, and continued throughout the entire game. Mississippi State won that game in overtime 43-41. The 2000 Independence Bowl garnered a 4.2 television rating, the second highest in the game’s history.

Alabama’s first appearance in Shreveport happened in 2001. The 26th Independence Bowl, Alabama vs. the Iowa State Cyclones, was a low-scoring affair, but another nail-biter, right down to the final seconds.  Iowa State nearly doubled the offensive output of Alabama, but the Crimson Tide  hung on to win, as Iowa State kicker Tony Yelk just missed a 47-yard field goal attempt, with just under a minute left in the game that might have won it for the Cyclones. Alabama 14- Iowa State 13. (By the way, that wide left field goal call is still talked about today.)

The Nebraska Cornhuskers came to the town for the 27th Independence Bowl.  Another first time team in Shreveport, the ‘Huskers, one of college football’s most storied programs, came to do battle with Eli Manning, and the Ole Miss Rebels. And, just like the past few years,  the Independence Bowl was yet another close one. The Rebels came back from a 17-14 halftime deficit, for the win: Ole Miss 27- Nebraska 23. ( FYI: It marked Ole Miss Head Coach David Cutcliffe’s third Independence Bowl appearance, and his third win.)

In 2003, a return trip for the Arkansas Razorbacks to the Independence Bowl…this time,  tangling with the Missouri Tigers. This would be Arkansas’ first trip back to Shreveport, since their 1991 loss to then-future SEC foe, Georgia, 24-15.  Led by Heisman hopeful Brad Smith, Missouri found themselves  down 21-7 at the half, and could only manage seven second-half points. Arkansas’ senior-laden team came away with a 27-14 win over the Tigers, thus snapping a  six-game postseason losing streak.

Iowa State and Miami University in 2004 was another close one. This time, on their return, the Cyclones, who had dropped a 14-13 heartbreaker to Alabama in the 2001 game, posted the Big 12's first win in the history of the Independence Bowl.  Miami University made its Independence Bowl debut. This time, the Tigers win: Iowa State 17- Miami University 13.

2005 marked the 30th Anniversary of the Independence Bowl, and Missouri returned, this time against Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks. South Carolina, made its debut in Independence Stadium, and raced out to a 21-0 lead after one quarter of play. That was before the Carolina melt-down. Missouri rallied for the victory: Missouri 38-South Carolina 31. Tigers Senior QB Brad Smith was named the game's Offensive MVP after setting an Independence Bowl record with 432 total yards and scoring four TD’s.

A new era began for the Independence Bowl in 2006 with Petrosun. It all happened August 21st, as the Independence Bowl partnered with PetroSun, Inc., giving the bowl its fourth title sponsor. Four months and seven days later, on Thursday, December 28th, one of the most exciting bowl games in was played in front of more than 45,000 fans at Independence Stadium. With yet another trip to Shreveport, the Alabama Crimson Tide fell to the Oklahoma State Cowboys 34-31.  OSU kicker Jason Ricks booted the game-winning field goal with just nine seconds remaining in the game on Thursday, December 28th, 2006.

The 2007 chapter of the Petrosun Independence Bowl is now being written. It will conclude on Sunday, December 30th. The contestants: the Colorado Buffaloes, making their first trip to Shreveport, will be lining up against the Alabama Crimson Tide, and their new head coach, Nick Saban. (See,it goes full circle. This is Saban’s first college game in Louisiana since he left the LSU Tigers four years ago. This time he’s the head coach of ‘Bama.) Just how will this one end.  It’s predicted to be a sell-out, so maybe, you’ll just have to watch it, live on ESPN, Sunday night, 7pm cst, December 30th.


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