Sunday, November 16, 2014

Michael Thornton TD Run With 38 Seconds Left Lifts Tuskegee to SIAC Football Title

Michael Thornton's 3-yard touchdown run with 38 seconds remaining lifted Tuskegee to a wild 47-41 victory over Albany State to claim the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference football championship.

The lead had changed hands four times over the last eight minutes of the fourth quarter until Tuskegee's final drive. With 2:40 remaining, Quarterback Justin Nared completed four passes for 57 yards during a drive where the Golden Tigers drove 64 yards in one minute and 42 seconds, culminated by Thornton's TD run.

"We work on the two-minute drill all the time," Tuskegee head coach Willie Slater told the Montgomery Advertiser. "It was no big deal, because we've done it before."

Tuskegee (9-2, 8-0 SIAC) now looks towards the NCAA Division II playoffs while Albany State (7-3, 7-1) holds on to a slim chance of also making the playoff field. The playoff brackets will be announced on Sunday afternoon.

“I had said all week it had to be the team executing at the end that wins it,” Albany State head coach Mike White told the Albany Herald. “And they made it and we didn’t. My hats off to them.  Defensively, we gave up a lot of big plays. Offensively, I thought we left a lot of points out there, especially in the first half. And this is a heartbreaker to lose, but what a great game.”

The game started as fast as it finished as Albany State's Adrian Alexander returned the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. But Hoderick Lowe followed up with two touchdown runs and Tuskgee's second quarterback, Kevin Lacey, threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to Larry Cobb to give the Golden Tigers a 21-7 first quarter lead.

Albany State then ran off 20 unanswered points over the next two quarters on a Frank Rivers touchdown pass, a Tarvarius Washington fumble recovery in the end zone and a Jarvis Small TD run.  The third quarter ended as Tuskegee countered with 10 unanswered points of their own on Trevor Wylie's 48-yard field goal and Nared's 84-yard TD strike to Marquel Gardner to go up 31-27.

From there, the two teams traded fourth quarter touchdowns, culminating in Thornton's game-clinching TD run.  Tuskegee added a safety with 32 seconds remaining.
Hoderick Lowe puts Tuskegee in position for the win with under a minute to play (photo by Albert Cesare/Montgomery Advertiser)

Lowe was named the game's Most Valuable Player after rushing for 150 yards and two touchdowns.  Nared finished with 230 yards and two touchdowns passing while Lacey added 125 yards and a touchdown in the air.  Tuskegee piled up 484 yards of offense.

Despite the score, Tuskegee's defense held Albany State to less than 300 yards (266) of offense, including only 74 yards rushing.  Jarvis Small, the SIAC's leading rusher, could only manage 40 yards on the ground and a touchdown.  Rivers threw for 194 yards and three touchdowns. 

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