Alabama A&M spoils Texas Southern’s SWAC title hopes with 21-point comeback in fourth quarter in 24-20 win

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – With their season ending at 60 minutes, Alabama A&M (4-7, 4-4 SWAC) previewed things to come as they rebounded from a 17 deficit in the fourth to stun Texas Southern (5-6 , 4 -4 SWAC) 24-20 and ruin their Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) title hopes in an NCAA Division I football game on Saturday, November 19.

With the way previous games had broken down, TSU had an opportunity to secure a league title game spot, only to have those hopes dashed by a 21-point quarterback that saw the Bulldogs a . 500 finish brought.

THE STATISTICS – ALABAMA A&M

Junior quarterback Xavier Lankford (Pelham, Alabama) proved himself a true double threat as he connected on 6 of 8 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown and devastated the Tigers on the ground with 76 yards and two TDs on just seven carries. Redshirt quarterback Quincy Casey (Memphis, Tenn.) sophomore was a third of that passing attack as he went 12-of-21 for 104 yards, and freshman quarterback Ashley Tucker, Jr. (Los Angeles, Calif.) was 2 -for- 4 for 51 yards.

Second wide receiver Keenan Hambrick (Athens, Alabama) had a career day receiving six of those passes for 139 yards. Senior wide out Cameron Young (Daphne, Alabama) added three catches for 36 yards and a key count, while a sophomore in jam Donovan Eaglin (Houston, Texas) hammered 120 yards wide with 20 carries.

On the defensive side of the ball, senior linebacker Dre Terry (Roanoke Rapids, NC) was an absolute force as he got away with a massive 16 tackles, 10 solo and one in the backfield, along with a forced fumble, pass breakup and quarterback rush. He was joined by wreck crew junior defensive end Zareon Hayes (Dillon, SC) with four tackles, half of which resulted in losses and a sack.

THE GAME

It would be a defensive battle in the first half as teams traded 10-play drives as part of a goalless opening frame. The Bulldogs would start a 62-yard drive with nine games and just under a minute and a half left, culminating in a 24-yard field goal from redshirt rookie Victor Barbosa (Hialeah Gardens, Fla.) with 12:46 on the clock in the second.

Neither team would convert on their next few drives before TSU got their offensive rolling. That would take the form of a 10-play, 61-yard drive that Kevin Harris capped with a one-yard jump. Without their kicker, the Tigers would go to two and Andrew Body would drop the ball straight into AJ Bennet’s breadbasket as he stepped back into the right corner of the end zone to give an 8-3 lead. A&M’s ensuing drive would end in a fumble, but Texas Southern couldn’t take it as the clubs went into the break with that eight-point lead.

The Bulldogs would prove turnover-prone at the worst possible time, opening the third with five games and 47 yards before a pass from Casey landed in the end zone in the hands of Isaiah Hamilton to squash an opportunity to continue. It would be an opportunity TSU wouldn’t pass up as they moved the ball 85 yards in seven games, including a 37-yard grab by Derek Morton. That drive ended with Bennett body drilling for 20 yards to shoot up at 14-3 after a failed two-point attempt.

The remainder of the period would see no drive past seven plays and 30 yards, but that would change dramatically in the fourth. Body broke for a 36-yard run in the first game of her opening possession of the fourth and set the stage two games later for a 39-yard touchdown shot at Randy Masters to, after an intercepted two-point try at 20: 3 to take the lead . From there, her offense would go into the witness protection program as she would no longer be heard.

That attack would start on the next possession, when A&M pulled off an eight-play 67-yard drive that Tucker accounted for 54 yards. That included the big play of the stretch when he connected with Hambrick for 42 yards to the Texas Southern 13-yard line. Four games later, Lankford would break through from five yards to cut it to 20-10 with 10:51.

With time not on their side, the Bulldogs bought another six games into a drive that had taken the Tigers all the way to the A&M 28-yard line. It wouldn’t be lucky number seven, as Terry dealt with that scoring threat alone, ripping the ball free at the end of a 26-yard run from Body and sending the ball out the back of the end zone for a touchback.

It would be a landmark moment in the game as it was no longer out of reach but A&M had to work at 7:38. And they worked with it when Lankford lofted a ball to Hambrick, who landed on a 2 45 yards down the fieldnd and 25. Two games later, he flat-footed a ball to Young, who went for 34 yards and a TD to bring him down to 20-17.

That drive covered 80 yards in five games and just 1:23, leaving plenty of time to work if Alabama A&M could get the ball back. They would do that in three games and 2:15 and recapture at their own 19-yard line with 3:57 left in play.

Eaglin would open with a 20-yard scamper and the Bulldogs would benefit from a holding penalty as they moved the ball to TSU 47. After four games of dink and dunk to get to the 38-yard line, A&M faced a game-decided 4th and 1. It would be game-changing — but not in the way the Tigers had hoped, because instead of just picking up the yard to keep the drive alive, Lankford ended it right when he broke free for 38 yards to take a 24 -20 lead with 55 seconds remaining.

Tison Hill, relieving Body, would be under constant pressure on that final drive, starting with a rush from Terry and ending with a four-yard sack from Hayes in fourth, securing the massive win and ending it from behind TSU’s SWAC title game is hoping for that process.

THE STATISTICS – TEXAS SOUTH

Body repeated Lankford’s performance as a double threat as he went 12 of 24 for 191 yards and a pair of TDs under center and carried the ball 15 times for 149 yards. Morton grabbed five balls for 90 yards to lead the receiving corps while Masters and Bennett each added a score. Harris rounded out the offense with a touchdown on his five carries for 33 yards.

Calvin Henderson led the defense with 13 tackles, including seven solo, and Tarik Cooper registered eight with an interception and QB rush. They were joined by Michael Akins with seven tackles, 2.5 in the backfield and Hamilton with a 15-yard pick.

NEXT

The Bulldogs will now enter the 2023 season with strong performances from all three active quarterbacks and one of the most impressive performances of the 2022 season.

REMARKS
Before the game, Alabama A&M honored 16 seniors for their contributions to Bulldog football. These included Aadreekis Conner (Port Gibson, Miss.), Saeed Holt (Pittsburgh, Pa.), Diata Burns (Columbia, Md.), Terry, Isiah Cox (Jasper, Ala.), Terrell Gardner (Birmingham, Ala.), Jerry Parra (San Diego, California), Richard Calloway (Orlando, Florida), Farrell Hester II (Las Vegas, Nevada), Taylor Sanders (Livingston, Alabama), Jamal Irby (Mobile, Alabama), Cortez Herrin (Saluda, SC) , Samson Jackson (Tarpon Springs, Fla.), Anthony Howard (Birmingham, Alabama), Kendric Johnson (New Market, Alabama), and Kristofer Wilkins (Manvel, Texas).

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