Because it was a holiday, Jacksonville State planned to have its athletics ticket office closed on Monday.
Some things you just can’t plan for.
The ticket office was open on Monday at the Division I-AA school in Alabama because fans were beating down the doors on Sunday. They were beating down the doors on Sunday because Jacksonville State, a member of the Ohio Valley Conference, went to Ole Miss on Saturday and did the unthinkable. They went for a two-point conversion in the second overtime and stunned the Rebels 49-48.
“I believe we’ll have a few more folks for the home opener,” said Jacksonville State coach Jack Crowe, whose team takes on Chattanooga this Saturday at Burgess-Snow Field. “The response has been unbelievable.”
Every now and then this happens and the reverberations are pure magic. Appalachian State went to Michigan and pulled off the shocker in 2007 and suddenly the whole world knew about Jerry Moore’s Mountaineers from Boone, who would go on to win a third straight Division I-AA championship that season. The first two were won in relative obscurity. The third, because that team beat Michigan, was not.
Appalachian State blocked a field goal on the last play of the game to preserve its victory in the Big House. That block and the radio call that went with it will live in the YouTube Hall of Fame. These kinds of wins are forever.
So it will be with Jacksonville State, who got a 19-yard touchdown pass from Marques Ivory (from Warner Robins, Ga.) with 18 seconds left followed by a two-point conversion pass from Ivory to send the game into overtime. Fans who didn’t know there was another team called the Gamecocks (other than South Carolina) went scrambling for a map to learn where Jacksonville, Ala., is located.
Crowe said that after Ole Miss scored in the second overtime to go up 48-41, he made up his mind that if the Gamecocks scored on their possession they would go for a two-point conversion and the win.
“Ole Miss blew us off the ball so easily in the second overtime I knew we were gassed and there was nothing left in the tank,” said Crowe. “I told our coaches to have the two-point play ready. Either way the game was going to end. We were going to get on the bus and get out of there.”
Jacksonville State scored to make it 49-48 when its other quarterback, Coty Blanchard, threw a 30-yard touchdown pass on fourth and 15 in the second overtime. There was no hesitation. Blanchard had three options on the two-point play. His completion to Calvin Middleton, who was in the middle of a sea of Ole Miss defenders, wasn’t one of them.
Here is why this story is fun and why I’m bringing it to you this morning. Because one of the things that coaches learn in football is that if you just hang in there long enough, what goes around comes around.
You see, Crowe has been on the other end of a crushing Division I-AA upset. On Sept. 5, 1992 Crowe was starting his third year as the head coach at Arkansas. But on that fateful day Arkansas lost to The Citadel, 10-3, in the season opener. A furious Frank Broyles, the Arkansas athletics director, didn’t wait 24 hours. He marched into the football offices Sunday morning and fired Crowe on the spot and named defensive coordinator Joe Kines as the interim head coach. The following season Danny Ford was named head coach.
Crowe is good friends with Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt, who called it “the worst loss of my career.”
“Somebody asked me I was worried about Houston and I told them no,” Crowe said with a laugh. “He doesn’t have Frank Broyles as an athletic director.”
Crowe said he took a little time to enjoy the win on Sunday and then his attention turned to Chattanooga, which lost a 42-41 shootout at Appalachian State. Next week the Gamecocks will go to Atlanta to play Bill Curry’s 1-0 Georgia State team. The Panthers will probably sell a few more tickets to that game thanks to Jacksonville State’s upset of Ole Miss.
“I saw they had 30,000 for their first game. That’s incredible,” said Crowe. “Playing Curry will be a dogfight over there. Anything can happen on the road in this sport.”
Yes it can, Coach Crowe. Yes it can. That’s why it’s the greatest sport in the world.
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Programming note: “Barnhart and Durham” on WQXI, 790 The Zone, returns this morning from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Today’s guests include Steve Jones, the radio voice of Penn State (whoich plays at Alabama), Bob Davis, the radio voice of Kansas (which hosts Georgia Tech), and Robbie Burns, whose new book celebrates the 30th anniversary of “Belue to Scott” at the Georgia-Florida game. Please join us.