Sun Bowl

1974

 

Mississippi State 26

North Carolina 24

 

Mississippi State Fight Song

 

To this day, the 40th edition of the Sun Bowl is always remembered as much for the game as for the events leading up to the game. The night before the game, an overnight snow hit Sun Bowl Stadium. Although removed from the field, it left moisture that turned to steam when the sun came out during the game, and thus the "Fog Bowl" was born.

As surreal as the scene on the field appeared, the 1974 Sun Bowl was one of the truly great contests of the 1974-75 bowl season. Coach Bob Tyler’s Bulldogs had been a surprise in the SEC, finishing 9-3 and 18th in the nation. On the field, these two high-powered offenses combined for more than 900 yards of total offense. North Carolina and Mississippi State traded score after score all day

 

The stage was set early when Terry Vitrano took a handoff from quarterback Rockey Felker and sprinted 55 yards on the game’s opening play. As the fog rose in the first half, Vitrano and running mate, Walter Packer, churned out huge yards. But, North Carolina was not to be denied. Carolina’s Mike Voight and James Betterson kept pace. Packer and Betterson scored first half touchdowns. Vic Nickels added a 24 yard field goal for MSU in the second quarter and the Bulldogs held a 10-7 edge at the half.

 

Betterson scored again on a 6 yard run in the third quarter. Packer matched that with a 16 yard run of his own and the score was 17-14. Before the quarter was over, UNC’s Chris Kupec, who led the nation in 1974 in pass completion percentage, connected with Jimmy Jerome for 29 yards and a touchdown. Nickels added another field goal for MSU from 32 yards and the third period ended with North Carolina leading 21-20.

 

Carolina padded the lead at 24-20 lead with 10:26 to play on an Ellis Alexander field goal. On their next possession, Rocky Felker led MSU down the field. Three times MSU faced third downs on the drive and State faced a fourth and 2 at the UNC 25 yard line, where Felker called his own number, clawing for 15 yards. Felker then ran eight more yards to get MSU into scoring position. Vitrano capped the 6:29 drive that ate most of the fourth-quarter clock with a 2-yard plunge into the end zone at the 3:41 mark. The final score was 26-24.

 

The drive reminded both Tyler and Felker of the Bulldogs’ 29-28 win over Memphis State earlier in the year, a game in which State drove 98 yards in the closing two minutes for the win.


Mississippi State had come from behind three times in the second half to upend the North Carolina. Vitrano finished the game with 20 carries for 164 yards to earn the C.M. Hendricks Most Valuable Player honors. Walter Packer piled up 183 yards on 24 attempts and scored twice.

All-America defensive tackle Jimmy Webb, named the game's Jimmy Rogers Jr. Most Valuable Lineman, registered the most critical of his 12 tackles when he stopped Voight a yard shy of a first down on a fourth-and-short situation. It was Carolina’s last offensive play of the game and preserved the win for the Bulldogs.

 

Mississippi State totaled a Sun Bowl record for total offense with 499- 455 of those yards came on the ground via the veer offense. The 455 rushing yards still stands as a Sun Bowl record. Those totals were just a bit much for the Tar Heels. The Heels, coached by MSU grad Bill Dooley, were no slouches on offense, mounting 402 total yards. UNC got big ground gains from Voight and Betterson. Voight picked up 90 yards on 19 carries and Betterson chipped in with 84 on 17 rushes.

 

 “This team was a lot better than we expected in a lot of ways,” Tyler said. “I think we’re a year ahead. We established unity in our program that usually takes two seasons to establish. I’ve never been more confident or enthusiastic about the future than I am right now.”

 

 

Walter Packer emerges out of the rising fog. A scene only possible at the 1974 Sun Bowl in El Paso.

 

Felker pitches out.

 

Rocky Felker carries during the last key drive.

 

Dennis Johnson takes handoff from Felker amidst fog.

 

Attendance: 26,035

 

Scoring Summary

 

First Quarter

MSU- Packer 1 run (Nickels kick)

UNC- Betterson 1 run (Alexander kick)

 

Second Quarter

MSU- FG Nickels 24

UNC- Betterson 6 run (Alexander kick)

 

Third Quarter

MSU- Packer 16 run (Nickels kick)

UNC- Jerome 29 pass from Kupec (Alexander kick)

MSU- FG Nickels 32

 

UNC- FG Alexander 26

MSU- Vitrano 2 run (kick failed)

 

Individual Statistics

 

Rushing

MSU-Packer 24-183, Vitrano 20-164, Felker 14-69, Johnson 7-22

UNC- Voight 17-90, Betterson 19-84, Oliver 9-57, Lamens 4-32

 

Passing

MSU- Felker 2-7-33, Johnson 1-1-11

UNC- Kupec 5-15-125

 

Receiving

MSU- Lewis 2-27, Barkum 1-17

UNC- Norton 2-61, Jerome 2-42

 

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