After a 90 minute weather delay, Alabama State and Jacksonville State were able to get started and the wait led to an exciting finish that saw ASU’s comeback fall just short in a 24-22 final decision.
“Our first game of the 2013 season had a lot of excitement,” Head Coach Reggie Barlow said. “The rain held us back there a little bit and we were itching at the bit to get out there. We finally got out there and I thought our guys played with a lot of passion and a lot of energy early on.”
The Hornets had fallen behind 24-9 entering the fourth quarter, but was able to push across two touchdowns in a four minute span to cut the lead to 24-22. ASU went for two and the tie, but Jarrett Neely’s reverse pass fell just short in the end zone and ASU still trailed 24-22 with 7:33 left in the game.
ASU’s final drive started on their 25 with 2:48 left in the game. Over the next eight plays ASU moved the ball to JSU’s 20 yard line, but ran into problems from there.
After a delay of game penalty and a quarterback sack, the Hornets faced a second and 20 from JSU’s 30. Duhart who had already completed two passes in the drive, threw a slant pass that JSU cornerback Brenton Tolson made a diving interception to halt the comeback and seal the victory for JSU.
Barlow added, “It’s pretty frustrating (getting down and turning the ball over) considering we had already burned timeouts because we didn’t get the right personnel or we got the right personnel and the guys didn’t get lined up right so it was frustrating.”
JSU had a big third quarter scoring all of their 24 points in the period over an 11 minute span to turn a 6-0 halftime deficit into the 24-9 lead. Max Shortell, JSU’s transfer from Minnesota at quarterback, led the big quarter with his throwing. He finished the game throwing for 216 yards on 13 of 23 passing with one score.
“We had some opportunities on offense that we were not able to get points when we needed them and they came back out in the second half like I knew they would and fought and competed and had a 24 point quarter,” Barlow said.
Trailing 24-9, the Hornets forced two turnovers in the fourth quarter to get back into the game. Maurice Tate caused the first turnover with an interception he returned to JSU’s six yard line. Malcolm Cyrus scored on the next play and after the extra point ASU trailed 24-16.
“I was very happy and proud of Maurice for that,” Barlow said. “We know what Maurice gives us from a player standpoint. We know he is an athletic and fiery guy that can make plays and when he is dialed in he is good. He stepped up and made some big tackles for us and made that interception and I appreciate that type of effort.”
The second turnover came on a JSU muffed a punt that ASU’s Marquis Lovett recovered at JSU’s 15 yard line. Two plays later Duhart hit Chris Gilzeane from eight yards out to cut the lead to two, but that would be the final points of the game even though the final seven minutes were very exciting.
“We fought back and I’m proud of the guys for fighting back there at the end and giving us an opportunity to be in the game, of course we came up a little short,” Barlow added.
ASU out gained JSU in total yardage 405 to 348, holding JSU’s vaunted rushing attack to 108 yards on 49 attempts. A 2.2 yards per carry average.
Duhart finished the game completing 18 of his 36 passes for 204 yards and a score. ASU showed a balanced offense as they rushed for 201 yards with Isaiah Crowell leading the way with a game-high 93 yards on 11 carries.
The first half saw both teams have some success moving the ball, but had problems putting the ball in the end zone. None bigger than on the last play of the first half with JSU at the one yard line on third down and trailing 6-0. The Hornets front line broke through to stop Pope in the backfield to send ASU to the locker room with the lead.
ASU built the lead on a pair of second quarter Bobby Wenzig field goals, one from 42 yards out with 11:17 left in the second half and a 35 yarder with 5:01 left.
JSU managed 151 total yards in the opening half, 53 rushing and 98 passing. The Hornets had 149 yards, 64 rushing and 85 passing.
“We threw a lot at them since August 1st and we thought we had the plays in the game plan they were comfortable with, but unfortunately there were a couple of errors there we have to correct this week,” Barlow said.
ASU (0-1)will look to make those corrections before hitting the road and open Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) action next Saturday when they travel to Jackson, Miss., to face the Tigers of Jackson State.
Courtesy: Alabama State Sports Information