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Today in MSU History: The Deep Freeze Bowl

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12/21/1963- Mississippi State defeated North Carolina State 16-12 in the last Liberty Bowl played in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In 1963, it had been almost 23 years since Mississippi State participated in a bowl game - the Orange Bowl after the 1940 season. That didn't necessarily mean that there were no successful teams, though.

In 1941, State won the SEC Championship, but didn't go bowling because they had a game left to play after the bowl announcements were to be made, and the bowls didn't want to take a chance that #16 Miss. State (7-1-1) would lose their game after a long road trip to San Francisco.

State won eight games in both 1942 and 1946, but key losses to Alabama kept the Bulldogs on the outside of bowl selections.

And there were numerous teams that went 6-4 or better - 1944, 1945, 1947, 1954, 1955, and 1957 - but that wasn't good enough to get you into a bowl game back then.

State broke through in 1963, and a season-finale tie against the conference champion and heavily-favored Ole Miss Rebels encouraged the Liberty Bowl to pick Mississippi State (6-2-2, 4-1-2 SEC) to play against North Carolina State (8-2) in Philadelphia.

The trip north was quite the expense for the small-budgeted Bulldogs, but the Liberty Bowl was to be broadcast to a national audience on NBC, and State wanted the exposure, having never played on national television. The payout was $35,000, which didn't even cover the travel expenses for the team and band.

Kickoff was at 1:00 in the afternoon, and temperatures reached just 22 degrees in full-sun. Two weeks prior, the Army/Navy matchup attracted over 100,000, but thanks to the cold and unfamiliar teams, organizers only sold 8,309 tickets to the Liberty Bowl, with just 4,000 there at kickoff. Over half of the audience had left by halftime, and less than 1,000 stayed until the end.

Early in the first quarter, North Carolina State was pinned on its own 19 yardline, facing fourth down. Punter Dave Houtz received a high snap from center, and State's Bill McGuire broke through the line and blocked the punt. Defensive end Tommy Inman picked up the loose ball on the 11 yardline and scored easily, giving Mississippi State a 7-0 lead.

The Bulldogs held NC State on their next possession, but the blocked punt played in Houtz's mind and he rushed the kick, netting just 32 yards. Mississippi State marched 47 yards in 8 plays, with 158-pound QB Sonny Fisher scoring and giving MSU the 13-0 lead.

Just prior to the end of the first quarter, McGuire partially blocked another Houtz punt and Mississippi State again had favorable field position, setting up Justin Canale's 42-yard field goal early in the second quarter.

In the first 18 minutes, the Bulldogs had tallied 16 points, but that was all they would get. NC State cut the lead to 16-6 by halftime, and finally scored again with two minutes left in the game. A failed on-side kick ended the Wolfpack's chances at victory, and Mississippi State won 16-12.

With 94 rushing yards, Mississippi State halfback Ode Burrell was voted MVP.

At game's end, the temperature had dropped to 15 degrees, and northeastern sportswriters began to refer to the 1963 Liberty Bowl as the "Deep Freeze Bowl."

Due to the bitter cold and a $40,000 loss in ticket sales, the Liberty Bowl promoters decided to hold the 1964 game inside at Atlantic City Convention Hall in New Jersey. That year, Utah beat West Virginia in 60-degree temperatures.

The next year, the bowl was moved to Memphis, where it is still played today.