Huge comeback, gutsy playcalling lead Jacksonville State to big upset over Mississippi

By David Brandt, AP
Sunday, September 5, 2010

Veteran coach Jack Crowe leads JSU to huge victory

OXFORD, Miss. — Jack Crowe has been coaching football for 40 years, but even he was at a loss to describe how Jacksonville State pulled off the unthinkable with a 49-48 double-overtime victory over Mississippi on Saturday.

“I don’t believe you could repeat the circumstances again in a hundred years,” Crowe said. “You just couldn’t.”

Not only was it undoubtedly the biggest win in school history, but the way it played out made the final score even more unbelievable.

The Gamecocks erased a 31-10 halftime deficit, marking the school’s biggest comeback win. Then in double overtime, Crowe gambled after his team scored a touchdown to pull to 48-47, electing to go for the 2-point conversion instead of kicking the extra point.

It turned out to be a decision that Jacksonville State fans, and Ole Miss fans, will remember for a long time. It was the Rebels’ first loss to a Football Championship Subdivision team in school history.

On the final play, Jacksonville State freshman quarterback Coty Blanchard took the snap and had to retreat almost immediately because Ole Miss brought a huge pass rush. Then in desperation, he threw what looked like a basketball hook shot into the end zone.

Calvin Middleton was right there to grab the football, falling just past the goal line to ignite a wild celebration at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Blanchard, who was Alabama’s high school Mr. Football last season, admitted the play didn’t go exactly as planned.

Of course, that didn’t really matter after the result.

“We’ll take whatever we can get,” Blanchard said.

Jacksonville State used two quarterbacks with Blanchard and Marques Ivory. Both made important plays during the upset, combining to go 22 of 36 for 252 yards and four touchdowns. The Gamecocks scored on their final six possessions, including touchdowns on the final five.

The win was especially sweet for Crowe, who’s been on the wrong end of an upset like this before. In 1992, he was the coach at Arkansas when the Razorbacks lost to The Citadel — which also played at a lower-level.

He was fired the next day.

Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt, who has won 18 games over the past two seasons, won’t face the same fate. Nutt was the receivers coach under Crowe during that 1992 season.

“I normally wouldn’t do this, but I think of Houston as a brother,” Crowe said. “I think we took advantage of them while they’re still in the search to find themselves. I’ve just got a tremendous amount of respect for him and their program. That’s a quality football team that’s going to win a lot of games.”

Now the challenge is to deal with success while preparing to face Chattanooga on Saturday in Jacksonville, Ala. If there’s one thing the Gamecocks now know, it’s that anything can happen on the football field.

“I think we have to be real careful,” Crowe said.

But for now, there’s probably still some celebrating going on up in northeastern Alabama.

“Years from now, we’ll still be talking about it like it happened today,” receiver Jeffrey Cameron said.

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