No. 9 Jackson State Outlasts No. 2 Alabama A&M In OT Thriller

By Ivan McDowell
Updated: November 4, 2007

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Quarterback Jimmy Oliver rallied Jackson State from a first quarter 13-0 deficit and Edward Lee plunged in from the one in overtime, as the Tigers survived the Alabama A&M Bulldogs, 43-40.

The SWAC’s Eastern Division co-leaders squared off on Senior Day at Louis Crews Stadium when Alabama A&M (7-1, 5-1 SWAC) hosted the Tigers of Jackson State (5-3, 5-1).

A&M had won five straight games versus the Tigers and four overall, after narrowly squeaking by rival Alabama State last week, while JSU struggled last Saturday with lowly Arkansas-Pine Bluff, but still prevailed. At stake was the inside track to the SWAC title game in Birmingham on December 15.

The Bulldogs seized early momentum thanks to Frank Moore’s opening kickoff return of 46 yards that gave the A&M great field position at the JSU 37. Two plays later, Quarterback Kelcy Luke scrambled and found tight end Charles Moody in the middle of the field for a 38-yard gain and a first and goal at the Tiger seven-yard line.

Ulysses Banks capped the drive with the touchdown; bouncing outside and around the corner for the score to make it 7-0 Bulldogs.

After a Tiger punt, A&M struck again this time via the leg of placekicker Jeremy Licea, after again receiving excellent field position. Licea’s boot of 37 yards pushed the bulge to 10 and A&M had early command of this one.

Licea kicked another field goal for the Bulldogs, this one of the 41-yarder, to increase the lead to 13-0, as the quarter ended.

JSU got on the board with an Eric Perri 38-yd field goal resulting from a 10 play, 58-yard drive. The Tigers used a mixture of Jimmy Oliver passes and Eric Haw rushes set up the score and closed the gap to 13-3, early in the second quarter.

Another Perri field goal tightened things even further at 13-6; A&M stuffed the Tigers on fourth and 1 from the 1-yd line. The Bulldogs were subsequently stuffed themselves in the end zone for a safety and JSU had all the momentum, trailing 13-8 and getting the ball back.

A&M stole uncle mo right back when Luke threw a pretty pass down the sideline to Thomas Harris for a 49-yd touchdown. The point after was blocked and the Bulldogs headed into the locker room with a 19-8 cushion.

JSU came out on fire in the second half, scoring two touchdowns on their first two possessions of the half. Oliver was on fire, completing passes of 43, 35, 26 and 25 yards. The Tigers climbed the mountain when Oliver hit Terrance Jones in stride for the 25-yard score and a 23-19 advantage.

Coach Rick Comegy’s Tigers went for the throat on the ensuing kickoff; squibbing an on-side kick and recovering it in Bulldog territory. They capitalized moments later when a sizzling Oliver tossed a rope to Jaymar Johnson for a 30-19 Blue Tiger lead.

JSU scorched the Bulldogs for 22 points in the third quarter. Oliver at one point was 10 of 12 for 191 yards and three touchdowns.

In a page out of Michael Jackson’s greatest hits, this “Thriller” would get even better.

Luke would pick up his Bulldogs off the turf and lead them to 10 points. A 31-yd pass to Rashad Johnson set up another Licea field goal. Later, Luke would complete a throw-back screen to receiver Gerald Stockdale for 27 yards and a Bulldog touchdown.

JSU quickly marched back down the field, but a series of penalties backed them up beyond the 30-yard line. On the next play Oliver, while running for his life, lost the football while being brought down by defensive lineman Marcus Powe. Byron Wilson picked it up and scampered 42 yards for the touchdown.

It gets even wilder.

With the Bulldogs leading 37-30, Oliver delivered his magic once again. This time throwing to Rodney Gray from 5 yards out and knotting the score at 37, after the converted point after, and sending the game into overtime.

Jeremy Licea converted a 41-yard field goal, but you just knew it wouldn’t be decided by three points. Oliver wouldn’t let it.

On a third and seven, Oliver hit Chris Johnson, who took it to the one-yard line. Fullback Edward Lee plunged in on first and goal and the Tigers had the victory.

Player of the Game Jimmy Oliver had a superb game; completing 26 of 43 for 391 yards and four touchdowns. Tailback Erik Haw chipped in 117 yards on 23 carries.

For the Bulldogs, Quarterback Kelcy Luke passed for 261 yards and two touchdowns.

JSU moves to 6-3 with the victory and now has control of the Eastern Division of the SWAC at 6-1. A&M slips to 7-2 and 5-2 with the loss.

A&M/JSU Quickies:

— Jackson State’s defense held Bulldog star rusher Ulysses Banks to 15 yards rushing on 16 carries.

— JSU also owned the edge in time of possession; dominating 43:36 to 16:24.

— The Tigers converted almost 50 percent of their third down conversions, going 12 of 23 and racking up 27 first downs on the day.

Alabama A&M, usually the stingiest defense in the conference, had no answer for the Tigers offense giving up 539 yards on the day.