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The 1999 Texas Bowl was the 71st annual instance of the bowl in Dallas, TX. The 1999 game was also the national championship for the 1998-99 college football season, pitting the No. 1 Texas Longhorns against the No. 2 Nova Scotia Sea Lions. The Longhorns won 45-3 in one of the biggest national title game routs in history and took home their first national championship since 1981, and their first title under coach Dick Vermeil. The game set a Texas Bowl single-game passing record by Texas quarterback Chris Klein and also the largest margin of victory (42 points) in Texas Bowl history.
The Texas Bowl was selected as the host of the 1998-99 national championship in 1994 at the annual NCAA Football Conference in San Diego, CA. The city of Dallas, which had also hosted the 1993-94 title bout at the Texas Bowl, prepared by calling it the "Last Championship of the Millennium" and hyping the bowl game long before the 1998 season had even begun. In the summer of 1998, platinum-selling rock band Black Stripe announced that it had agreed to play the halftime show at the Texas Bowl, the biggest name to play during the extended halftime of a title game since the extension was put in place in 1989.
Dick Vermeil returned for his sixth season in Sutton in 1998 and opened the season ranked No. 3 behind defending national champion Florida State and Massachusetts. The team was expected to be led by its defense, featuring returning Sarelli Award winner James Hayes and Roy Award winner Hank Laws. The offense returned numerous starters, including highly regarded left tackle Julius Northcutt, wide receiver James Fields, running back Magic Clemens, and senior quarterback Zac Paulson.
Texas made a huge statement when they went on the road to No. 10 Huron in the third week of the season after home tuneups against Dakota and West Texas, and beat the Highlanders and their new head coach Brett Estevez 35-17. In their conference opener the next week, the Longhorns defeated Alabama on the road 40-10.
The Longhorns blew out their next two opponents until Paulson blew out his knee in an October showdown with Mississippi State in front of a raucous home crowd. Highly touted sophomore Chris Klein stepped in and threw three touchdown passes in the third quarter to put the game away and led the 'Horns the rest of the season to a No. 1 ranking, an AP Freshman of the Year Award due to his jaw-dropping statistics (on average three touchdown passes a game and only one interception all season.) The Texas Longhorns defeated the Kentucky Wildcats in the SouthCo championship game in Covenant 35-33 on a last-second touchdown pass from Klein to Fields to win Texas's first SouthCo championship (having joined the conference in 1990) and earn them an undefeated season and berth in the Texas Bowl.
Nova Scotia Sea LionsThe Sea Lions, coached by George Jones, were ranked No. 6 to start the season, thanks to returning offensive star running back Desmond Pike and the entire offensive line, as well as nine defensive starters. Nova Scotia dominated throughout the regular season, helped by emerging junior quarterback Tyrone Blake, as well as stud senior receiver Eddie Moss. The Nova Scotia rushing attack was nigh unstoppable, leading Division I schools with over 2,000 total yards, 1,732 of those provided by Pike, who ran away with the Bosch trophy. Nova Scotia defeated defending conference champion Pittsburgh for the second year in a row and then defeated then-undefeated archrival and No. 1 U-Mass in Boston whilst ranked No. 4. With U-Mass defeated and Oregon suffering a last-second upset to Stanford, Nova Scotia slid into the No. 2 spot behind Texas, which won in the SouthCo title game to set up the matchup in Dallas.
CBS was the network carrying the game and spent months hyping the game, and in the month before the showdown the hype only increased as two storied programs met for the first time in history in the championship game. The teams had a combined nine titles (although Texas had seven of them) and neither had won since the early 1980's. The game was also hyped as it would be the first time Texas had played for the national championship in its home state and as a member of the Southern Conference - hundreds of thousands of Longhorns fans descended upon Dallas in the preceding days, and conservative estimates figured that more than seventy percent of the tickets sold were to Texas fans, despite the allotments to Nova Scotia supporters.
Experts favored Texas, but the line was only by four points. Desmond Pike, the Bosch winner, announced that he would rush for one hundred yards in the title game and the Sea Lions entered the game with an air of confidence. Due to the stout Sea Lion defense, many questioned how Klein would react, despite his strong play throughout the season.
The game had an estimated attendance at Texas Stadium in Dallas of 89,560, a stadium and Texas Bowl record. The national anthem was performed by Penelope Lopez, a popular Latin singer from the Dallas area who thanked the crowd in Spanish after she finished performing.
The game was an unmitigated blowout. On the opening kickoff, Texas chose to receive the kickoff and Jonah Brady returned the kick 95 yards for a score. The Longhorns and Sea Lions would trade field goals in the first quarter as well as punts.
The second quarter was when the unanswered Texas run of 35 points began. The Longhorns intercepted Nova Scotia quarterback Tyrone Blake four times during the game, and scored 21 points in the second quarter and one touchdown in each ensuing quarter. With the deficit at halftime 31-3, the game was no longer in question at that point. Nova Scotia never crossed the fifty yard line after the middle of the second quarter and Pike rushed for only 63 yards on the night, and fumbled twice, only recovering once. Sea Lion wide receiver Kevin Harvey fumbled the ball after being hit by TJ Dyson and the fumble was returned for the Longhorns' third touchdown of the second quarter. In total, the Sea Lions had six turnovers on the night and Blake was sacked eight times by a ferocious Texas defensive line, and hit about fifteen additional times.
Chris Klein threw for 232 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, and Roger Stone scored on a 31-yard touchdown run as part of a three-headed rushing attack that gained 193 yards on the ground. James Fields, in his last game as a Longhorn, caught thirteen passes for 142 receiving yards and one touchdown, and tackled Nova Scotia safety Sean Wilson after he intercepted Klein.
TEX - Brady 95 yard Kickoff Return for TD (Sykes kick is GOOD)
NS - Johnson 32 yard Field Goal
TEX - Sykes 24 yard Field Goal
TEX - Klein 36 yard TD pass to Addison (Sykes kick is GOOD)
TEX - Klein 18 yard TD pass to Fields (Sykes kick is GOOD)
TEX - Harvey 5 yard fumble return for TD (Sykes kick is GOOD)
TEX - Stone 31 yard TD run (Sykes kick is GOOD)
TEX - Klein 12 yard TD pass to Addison (Sykes kick is GOOD)
Postgame and Legacy
The Texas Longhorns won their 8th national championship by burying Nova Scotia in front of a raucous crowd in their home state. Former Texas coaching legend Chuck Noll presented the NCAA Patrick O'Neal National Championship Trophy to the Texas Longhorns, as agreed upon by the two teams; had Nova Scotia won, former Sea Lion head coach Joe Areliano (national champion 1984) would have presented the trophy.
Chris Klein was named the MVP of the Texas Bowl due to his performance, and would go on to play two more highly regarded season in Sutton and eventually have his No. 8 jersey retired in 2003, two years after his graduation. James Fields received similar treatment, having his No. 81 jersey retired during the 2000 season. Both Klein and Fields had hugely successful careers in the AFL and NFL, respectively; as of 2010, both have won two titles apiece.
The championship parade in Sutton a few days after the Texas Bowl win is estimated to have attracted nearly one million people and cost $2 million dollars. Vermeil would retire after the 2005 season having won nine games a season for twelve consecutive seasons. The game is still the most lopsided national championship score since the 60-0 blowout win by South Carolina over Aroostook in 1990, nobody having come close to reaching the margin of victory achieved by Texas over Nova Scotia.