It was a cold December night when Ole Miss faced off against the West Virginia Mountaineers in Nashville, Tenn. for the Music City Bowl in 2000. The Rebels may have lost that game, but a legend was born that night.
Ole Miss was 7-4 on the season, while the Mountaineers struggled to become bowl eligible with a 6-5 record. This bowl game marked the end of the Don Nehlen-era at West Virginia, as the Mountaineers had struggled to win bowl games under his leadership.
The first quarter was a defensive struggle. The second quarter was an entirely different story, as West Virginia’s offense exploded for 28 points. At halftime, the Mountaineers lead the Rebels 35-9. West Virginia continued to add 14 more points on the board in the third quarter. The Rebels managed one third quarter touchdown, but the Mountaineers were still ahead 49-16 going into the fourth.
Head coach David Cutclffe decided to pull senior Romaro Miller and put in a tall, lanky red-shirt freshman named Eli Manning. The Ole Miss offense, that struggled to get anything going all night, didn’t just come alive; it was electric. The Mountaineers were shell-shocked by the change.
Manning was firing on all cylinders and didn’t miss his targets. The Rebels scored 22 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and the only thing that seemed to save the Mountaineers was time running out. Manning finished the night completing 12 of 20 passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone. That was just the beginning of what was to become a legendary college career.
Eli would go on to lead Ole Miss to two bowl appearances and it’s first ten-win season in over 30 years. He finished third in Heisman voting his senior year, behind Jason White of Oklahoma and Larry Fitzgerald of Pittsburgh. However, he did take home the Maxwell Award, which goes to college football’s most valuable player. In April of his senior year, he was taken first in the NFL draft. Since then, he’s led the New York Giants to two Super Bowl victories and was awarded Super Bowl MVP in both games.
Eli’s career is a legend in itself. But it all began on that cold December night in Nashville 13 years ago.
–Justin Taylor, Associate Editor, HottyToddy.com
–You can email Justin at email@example.com