By J.D. Cain
Most fans of college football in Mississippi have probably heard of the “Immaculate Deflection.” Some of them even witnessed it that day.
As for me, I wasn’t even born when it happened, yet I’ve lived the story all of my life. November 19, 1983, was the date of the Egg Bowl that season. I was born in 1999. So how, you ask, have I lived it?
Ole Miss defeated Mississippi State that windy afternoon in Jackson by a final score of 24-23. Everyone in the stadium probably felt the Bulldogs were going to win the game as the MSU placekicker lined up for a 27-yard field goal with 24 seconds remaining.
My dad figured the Bulldogs were going to win it. Jim Cain, a walk-on defensive lineman, was on the sideline dressed in his maroon and white football uniform as his high school teammate, college teammate, roommate and close friend was about to kick the game-winner in the biggest game of the year in Mississippi.
Artie Cosby prepared to kick as fans on both sides of the stadium in Jackson stood and watched. Some may not have wanted to watch. Remember, it is the Egg Bowl.
Cosby kicked the football, and it headed directly between the uprights of the goalpost. But something happened before it went through. It never got there.
A massive gust of wind, just as the ball arrived at the goalpost, took it and sent it directly left in the end zone as Cosby and a stadium of onlookers watched in disbelief. That included my Bulldog dad.
I grew up with that missed kick. As a State kid, I heard about it for years. Now I’m a student at Ole Miss, and my colors are red and blue.
Welcome to the Egg Bowl rivalry.
Rick Cleveland, a former sportswriter for the Clarion Ledger and current columnist for Mississippi Today, distinctly remembers the sound of the kick and how much power Cosby brought behind it. Cleveland also said that in all his years of writing and watching sports, this was the only kick he remembers being celebrated by both teams.
“The ball went up, looked good, and the Mississippi State players on the field started celebrating,” Cleveland said. “Then the next thing you know, the ball’s laying on the ground and they’re hanging their heads in disbelief while Ole Miss’ players start celebrating,” Cleveland recalled, speaking with Emory Bellard, Mississippi State’s head coach at the time, after the game.
“God decided that Mississippi State was not going to win this game,” Cleveland remembers Bellard saying.
Cleveland said he could not remember exactly who “coined” the phrase “The Immaculate Deflection,” but said he would never forget the words of Coach Bellard after the game.
Don Whitten, a former sports editor of the Oxford Eagle, was standing “under the goalposts” when the kick went up. Whitten said he was fortunate enough to be able to have this viewpoint as his wife, Janet, was standing on the right side of the goalpost taking pictures for The Eagle and he was on the left side closer to the press box.
Whitten said when Cosby kicked the ball, “I expected it to go through. The ball kept going higher and higher and then it just dropped.
“The kick should have been right as rain,” he said. “The angle was perfect, the wind just made it short.”
Whitten said the phrase “Immaculate Deflection” wasn’t something he immediately thought or heard.
“We never thought anything about it at the time,” said Whitten. “Artie was an incredible kicker, the wind just made it short. But the title of Immaculate Deflection made for a great headline.”
And then there’s my dad. He knew MSU was about to win it as his longtime friend, teammate and roommate lined up to seal it.
“I never had any doubt Artie would make the kick,” dad said. “In high school, I watched him make a 52-yard field goal against Greenwood our senior year in the semi-finals to send us (Starkville) to the state championship game.
“I watched Artie trot out on the field and get ready to make the kick. Artie’s face was always the same. He was always cool and calm. When the ball went up, we all started celebrating…sideline and players on the field…all of us Bulldogs thought we had won the game – until we didn’t.
“When I watched it come down, I saw it as the hand of God swatting it down, matter of fact,” Dad concluded.
I reached out to my dad’s friend and teammate to see if he would talk about that game. The name Artie Cosby still resonates with Mississippi State fans and Ole Miss fans who watched the Egg Bowl of 1983 or have heard about it since.
I’ll just say Artie could not be reached for comment. But that’s OK, and I understand.
I don’t blame him for avoiding it. I am sure it is still too painful, because like Cleveland said, never before had he seen two teams celebrate a field goal.
For the past 37 years, however, the only ones still celebrating are the Ole Miss Rebels.