MONTGOMERY — Malcolm Cyrus ended an incredible career with 162 yards rushing and three touchdowns to lead Alabama State to a thrilling 30-27 win over Stillman in the 91st edition of the Turkey Day Classic.
“Today was a really fun day, a beautiful day for football and with it being our Homecoming our fans were here and our guys came out with good energy and wanted to play the game,” Head Coach Reggie Barlow said. “I commend Stillman. I knew they would be a tough team. They have won some games this year and Coach Keeton has done a great job with them and they made it interesting.”
Cyrus came into the game needing 206 yards rushing to break the single season rushing record of 1,705 yards set by Brad Baxter in 1986. Cyrus recorded his yardage against a Stillman club that at times loaded the box with 11 players trying to keep Cyrus from the record.
He finished his season with 1,662 yards and his career with 2,904 yards.
“They loaded the box a lot,” Cyrus said. “When we were especially in the pistol they put a guy in every gap and went man coverage and blitzed the gap and got penetration. I guess they keyed on me and were like he is not going to break the record. We still ran pretty well but we came up short.”
“I understand why they did that I would have probably done the same thing. I knew they were going to come in and try to stop me, but it was fun.”
ASU could never put the game away as Stillman continued to fight back. In the third quarter ASU pushed their slim three point halftime lead to 10 (23-13) after a seven yard Cyrus touchdown run. That play followed a Najee Bright interception which he returned it to Stillman’s seven leading to Cyrus’ run one play later.
That lead only lasted a few seconds as Dondre Purnell returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a score. ASU’s Rodrick “Ghost” Henderson was able to break through the line and blocked the extra point leaving the game at 23-19.
ASU went on to push the lead out to 30-19 on its’ next possession as Cyrus finished off a six-play, 59-yard drive with a three yard score. It was his third touchdown of the day which tied a single game career-high for touchdowns.
Again Stillman refused to go away and with just over eight minutes left in the game Purnell took a snap in the wildcat formation and broke through ASU’s defense for a 68 yard score. The Tigers made their two-point conversion to cut the lead to 30-27, but that would be the final points of the game.
ASU’s defense kept the Tigers in check for most of the game limiting them to 88 yards rushing, with 68 of that coming on Purnell’s fourth quarter run.
The Hornets pressured quarterback Josh Straughan into a 19-for-40 passing game did he threw for two scores, and one interception. The Hornets sacked him four times and had five quarterback hurries. Stillman finished the game with only 291 yards of offense.
“I thought our defense played well,” Barlow said. “They got us out of some bad situations and got some turnovers for us, that set us in some good situations, but the offense didn’t take full advantage of it as well as we would have liked. All-in-all it’s a win, it’s a way to send our seniors out as they finished up their career here so we will take it and celebrate it.”
ASU finished the game with 366 total yards, rushing for 143 yards and passing for 223. Daniel Duhart completed 17 of his 29 passes for 208 yards and a score, while Quinterius Toppings completed four of his six passes for another 15 yards.
Earl Lucas caught eight passes for 60 yards and a score and Ephraim Henderson, starting his second game in place of injured DeMario Bell, finished with four catches and a team-high 64 yards.
Cyrus did more than just run the ball, he also caught two passes for 30 yards. None bigger than his final catch of the day as ASU was trying to run out the clock facing a third-and-15 on their own 20-yard line, Cyrus caught the ball out of the backfield and broke two tackles in gaining 20 yards in effect putting the game away. Cyrus finished the game with 212 all-purpose yards.
ASU struggled on offense in the first half but managed to take a lead into the locker room at halftime. After forcing a punt on Stillman’s opening possession of the game, the Hornets put together a 7-play, 82-yard drive which culminated with a 21 yard scoring pass from Duhart to Lucas to give ASU a quick 7-0 lead.
The Tigers would come right back and score on two touchdown passes from Straughan; one to Purnell and the other to Sturgis to take a 13-7 lead. ASU would cut it to 13-9 when Hyram Frederick broke through the Stillman line to tackle Thurmon in the endzone for a safety.
ASU was able to take the lead again on a one yard run from Cyrus to end a seven-play, 75-yard drive. The point after gave ASU a 16-13 lead which they took into the locker room at halftime.
Kourtney Berry led the Hornets defense with nine tackles giving him 128 total stops on the season. Daerius Washington had six stops to finish with 98 tackles on the season. Bright’s interception was his team-leading fifth of the year.
Cyrus was named the game’s Offensive Most Valuable Player while Henderson, who finished with four, tackles, 2.5 tackles for lost yardage and sack to go along with his blocked kick and a forced fumble.
With the win the Hornets finish their season with a 7-5 record. The seventh win was a milestone in the history of the program because it is the first time the Hornets have won seven or more games for five consecutive seasons.
Courtesy: Alabama State Athletics