Jags Down Mississippi State In Starkville

September 4, 2016 · By · Filed Under Football 
Sophomore Dallas Davis hurdles a Mississippi State player on the Jaguars final drive in their 21-20 defeat of the Bulldogs in Starkville, MS. | Photo by: Bobby McDuffie usajaguars.com

Sophomore Dallas Davis hurdles a Mississippi State player on the Jaguars final drive in their 21-20 defeat of the Bulldogs in Starkville, MS. | Photo by: Bobby McDuffie usajaguars.com

Barely 24 hours removed from the Jaguars most significant win in the short history of the program, it’s still surreal.

Just a few years ago it was a hope and a dream. Today it’s another mark in Jaguar history.

I told people after the Jaguars first trip to Starkville in 2012 and they played with heart and determination but fell 30-10 that I truly believed that South Alabama would take one of the two remaining games against the Bulldogs.

Offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent entered the game with the knowledge that the Mississippi State defense was susceptible. Everett and Magee played for him at UAB and they gave the Bulldogs just about everything they could handle, but they came up short. This was his opportunity to try again.

The South Alabama defense, in their first game under the direction of defensive coordinator Kane Wommack and his swarm defense, came out and forced the Bulldog offense into three-and-outs in their first two possessions. But a change at quarterback sparked Mississippi State on their third possession when he completed his first pass for a 19 yard gain into Jaguar territory. A few plays later and the Bulldogs would find the endzone for a 7-0 lead.

The Jaguars under the leadership of sophomore Dallas Davis at quarterback would gash the secondary with some big gains like a 29 yard completion to Gerald Everett to start their drive and completions to Josh Magee for 25 and Tyrone Williams for 12. But their first scoring attempt of a 37 yard field goal from the right hashmark would bounce off of the left upright no good.

Mississippi State would capitalize on the opportunity however. Fred Ross would take the handoff on the first snap 46 yards to the Jaguar 34 and put the Jag defense on their heels. A few plays later and the Bulldogs had put another touchdown on the board to go up 14-0.

After stopping the Jags on their next possession, the Jags narrowly missed recovering a Bulldog mishap after Corliss Waitman’s punt hit off the helmet of a Bulldog blocker at the 35 and taking a Jaguar bounce to the 16, but the same player who caused the fumble would recover the ball.

MSU would drive down to the Jaguar 20 yard line but had to settle for a field goal to make it a 17 point lead.

The Jaguars starting on their own 25 would be led by Dallas Davis again with big completions to Everett for a 23-yards and back-to-back runs by Davis for 3 and 11 yards. Then Davis would connect with Everett against for another 24-yards getting down to the Bulldog 11 yard line. The drive would stall at the 8 yard line and like deja vu the 25-yard field goal would bounce off the right upright leaving the Jags scoreless again.

The Jags came out from halftime with a different demeanor, and it was evident even before the kickoff.

Dallas Davis picked up where he left off in the first half starting off with a 25-yard completion to Magee yards to put the ball at midfield.

After that the Jags did something they couldn’t do in the first half consistently: they began running the ball.

Davis ended the drive in similar fashion as the drive began, Davis to Magee, this time it was a 20-yard touchdown with three Bulldog defenders covering him. Suddenly the Bulldog lead was down to 17-7 and new life in the Jaguars.

Mississippi State would answer with a drive themselves, but this time the Jaguar’s swarm defense stiffened after being gashed on a couple plays and helped by a holding penalty.

Then another sign that the Jaguars were not ready to give up. They started to get pressure on the quarterback.

Two incomplete passes with Damian Williams being hurried caused Dan Mullen to settle for a 48-yard field goal to put the lead at 20-7 with 6:35 left in the third quarter.

The Bulldog special teams had the Jags pinned inside their own 1 yard line with 2:30 left in the quarter. Davis would hand off to Thomas and it looked as if the MSU defense had him stopped for a safety but the shifty Thomas shrugged off the would-be tackler and found room up the middle before cutting to his right towards the sideline for 37 yard gain and giving the offense breathing room. Thomas was only a step or two away from breaking it all the way to the endzone.
Facing 4th and 2 at the Jaguar 47 time would expire in the third quarter.

I don’t know if this even made a difference, but as the teams were swapping sides a well known was played in the stadium.

It was an odd choice for a home team leading 20-7. It was almost as if the mighty SEC team was taunting the little, upstart South Alabama Jaguars. The team some said shouldn’t even be on the field with a team like Mississippi State.

They played what might have been considered an innocent 35 year old song by a band named Journey: “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

Just about everyone in the stadium sang along. how can you refrain from lifting your voice whenever it’s played. It may simply be a tradition like Alabama would play “Sweet Home Alabama”.

“Just a small town girl. Livin’ in a lonely world. She took the midnight train goin’ anywhere….”

Davis started the fourth quarter with a six yard completion to Everett on that 4th and 2 play to extend the drive. Two plays later a 23-yard completion to Magee and a gift of 13 yard penalty for a personal foul put the Jags at the Bulldog 12 yard line. Dallas would run for 4 yards to the 8. An offsides on MSU would then put it at the 4 yard line. Then Thomas would take the handoff and punch it in the endzone to make it 20-14 with 12:43 left in the game.

“Just a city boy. Born and raised in south Detroit. He took the midnight train goin’ anywhere.”

The Jaguar defense kept up their pressure with quarterback hurries and tight coverage. A pair of Jaguar penalties would aid the Bulldogs but a holding penalty would put MSU behind the down and distance and the Jaguars forced a punt.

“Working hard to get my fill, everybody wants a thrill.”

The Jags went three and out, but the faith never wavered in the stands or the sidelines. MSU with gains of 13 and 23 put them at the Jaguar 21.

Then the Bulldogs faced a 3rd and 10 and again the swarm defense dialed up the pressure and Randy Allen and Tyree Turner sacked Williams for an eight yard loss. Westin Graves misses the field goal attempt from 46 yards wide left.

“Payin’ anything to roll the dice just one more time.”

Davis starts the drive at the Jaguar 29 with back-to-back incompletions intended for Everett. Then on 3rd and 10 he found Kevin Kutchera for 37 yards to the Bulldog 34 yard line.

“Some will win, some will lose. Some were born to sing the blues.”

Facing 3rd and 3 at the Bulldog 27, head coach Joey Jones calls a time out with 3:43 left in the game. After the time out, Davis takes the snap and ran up the middle, hurdled a defender, and eventually went down at the Bulldog 8 yard line. First down Jaguars and the clock keeps running.

“Don’t stop believin'”

Facing 3rd and goal at the 4 Davis steps back and calmly throws a pass to Gerald Everett between two defenders for the the touchdown to tie the game. The contingent of Jaguar fans erupt in jubilant celebration. Gavin Patterson drills the extra point.
Jaguars lead Mississippi state 21-20 in Starkville with :57 left in the game.

Corliss Waitman’s kick would roll out of bound giving Mississippi State an opportunity with the ball on the 35 and still :57 left. The Bulldogs were not going to roll over just yet.

Williams would find Donald Gray for 14 yards to the 49 yard line and got out of bounds to stop the clock. Holloway would run for 8 yards and out of bounds again to stop the clock. Williams to Ross for a loss of one yard and MSU spends a time out with :40 left. Only 17 seconds off the clock.

Williams pass to Gray for eight yards and a first down at the Jaguar 36. Another pass to Holloway for four yards and out of bounds to stop the clock again. Williams would call his own number for 13 yards before Nigel Lawrence stopped him at the Jaguar 19. Williams called his own number again for two more yards then coach Mullen calls a time out with :12 left. Williams runs again for 6 yards to the 11 and the Bulldogs call their final time out with :09 left to attempt the game winning kick.

With the Jaguar fans chanting “Block that kick”, the ball is snapped, Graves put his foot to the leather the ball flies and hits the left upright. He hooked it. The Bulldog fans left in the endzone all fall as if they were struck by lightning. The Jaguars bench empties out onto the field with coach Jones leading the way.

After getting the players off of the field, Dallas Davis took one last snap and kneeled down to allow the clock to expire, the Jags were able to celebrate again.

“Hold on to that feelin'”

Standing in the stands after never missing a home game and traveling to the away games I was able to attent, it was an honor to watch this programs’ biggest victory to date in person. I was emotional. I teared up. I didn’t know what to say other than chant USA with the rest of the fans.

It was years in the making.

It started with Coach Jones and players who believed in his vision even before there was building to house them or a field to practice on. Coach Jones in all of his post-game interviews from SEC Network, to Jaguar Radio, to addressing the crowd gathered to welcome them home at the fieldhouse and again Sunday morning on Fox 10 in Mobile: he praised the players, their character and their heart.

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