‘Battle Of Bama’ Goes To A&M….Again

By Ivan McDowell, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: November 1, 2009

BIRMINGHAM (BASN) — The 68th Magic City Classic offered all the pageantry and regalia customary of one of the great college football rivalries in the annals of the sport.

The Alabama State Hornets came into the contest leading the overall series 36-34-3, but losers of the last four classics and winners of only two contests in this decade. The Bulldogs of Alabama A&M University, on the other hand, entered the game having lost two consecutive games after starting the season impressively with wins over Tennessee State University and Hampton University. Similarly, ASU began the season with three straight victories over Division II foes Concordia, Savannah State and Edward Waters.Conversely, once SWAC play began, the Hornets promptly lost three consecutive contests before defeating Alcorn State last week at home. Kentucky transfer Deauntae Mason got the start for an inconsistent Kevin Atkins and the freshman promptly threw a 57-yard touchdown strike to Thomas Harris that propelled A&M to an early 7-0 lead; after Jeremy Licea’s point after. “I was nervous when we first came out and Coach Jones said we’d open with a bomb on the first play to calm me down,” opined Mason. “That’s what we did and fortunately it worked, so I was fine after that.”

Mason was more than fine. He generated 323 yards of total offense en route to being named the game’s offensive MVP. On their second series, the Hornets struck pay dirt with Anthony Speight’s 24-yard touchdown to Nick Andrews to tie the score at seven. The Bulldogs immediately drove down the field behind the arm and legs of Mason; culminating in a Jeremy Licea 28-yard field goal attempt. Unfortunately for A&M, Donovan Masline broke penetration and blocked the field goal and the score remained tied at seven.

Harris (seven catches, 157 yards, two touchdowns) was on the receiving end of another Mason pass; this time of the 22-yard variety, and the Bulldogs regained the lead, 14-7, with just over five minutes left in the half.

On the ensuing possession, Alabama State drove to the Bulldogs 31-yard line, but their 41-yard field goal attempt hit the cross bar and bounced back, so the score remained 14-7 in favor of the Bulldogs.

In the third quarter, A&M took advantage of excellent field position after a curious punt on third down by ASU, and used six plays to drive 40 yards for a Ulysses Banks one-yard jaunt into the end zone. After the Licea point after, the Bulldogs led 21-7.

Interestingly, it was the first score by either team inside of the red zone on the day.

The Hornets, unable to generate much offense on the day, finally began to find some success on their second possession of the second half. Runs by Speight and Rahmod Traylor led to a 35-yard missed field goal by Jake King.

It was the second missed kick on the day for King and another wasted opportunity in a game in which the Hornets had few opportunities.

For the game, Mason — in his first career start — completed 21 of 32 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns. Defensive MVP Afu Okosun had eight tackles; one for a loss.

The victory was the Bulldogs’ fifth straight in the series.