BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WSFA) - This year’s Magic City Classic will be a classic for years to come. The 78th chapter of this rivalry between Alabama State (3-4, 2-2) and Alabama A&M (5-3, 2-1) will be talked about for a long time to come.
It was a four-plus hour game that, in a triple-overtime affair, ended with Alabama A&M pulling out a 43-41 victory over the Hornets.
At Legion Field, the Hornets led 21-7 at halftime after wide receiver Michael Jefferson hauled in two touchdown passes. On one of his touchdowns, Jefferson hit the seam and was wide open for quarterback KHA’Darris Davis, who hit Jefferson in stride for the 48-yard score. Jefferson’s second touchdown was a 10-yarder. It put the Hornets up 14 at the time.
Before Jefferson’s touchdown, the Hornets and Bulldogs traded blocked punts. Alabama A&M blocked ASU’s punt in the first quarter leading 7-0, but was unable to capitalize, missing a field goal. In the second quarter, the Hornets exacted revenge.
Nygel Shamburger got through the blocking coverage by the Bulldogs and was able to stretch out and block Spencer Corey’s punt attempt. Eric Felts recovered the punt and returned it 19 yards for the score. That made it 14-7 in favor of the Hornets before Jefferson’s second touchdown reception.
But in the second half, the Bulldogs would storm back and tie the game before both teams would trade blow for blow, extending into overtime and beyond.
It began on the final play of the third quarter. AAMU’s Jordan Bentley broke through from 1 yard out to bring the Bulldogs to within a score. Then minutes later in the fourth, Aqeel Glass punched it in from 3 yards out to bring the Bulldogs and the Hornets even at 21 all late in the fourth quarter. ASU wasn’t able to put anything together before time expired in regulation and the game was off to overtime.
Glass’s score was part of 21-consecutive points scored by the Bulldogs. Alabama A&M opened the first overtime period with the ball. Bentley’s third touchdown rush of the game gave the Bulldogs their first lead since he opened the game with a rushing touchdown in the first quarter.
The Hornets wouldn’t waiver. They needed to answer with a touchdown of their own to stay in the game. On 4th and Goal, Davis completed a pass to Tyrek Allen to tie the game.
The Hornets got the ball to open the second overtime period and would retake the lead on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Davis to Jahod Booker. Now ahead 35-28, ASU just needed a stop. Holding the Bulldogs without a touchdown would ensure a win.
But Glass wasn’t trying to wait around and experience any fourth-down pressure. On AAMU’s first play of their second overtime possession, Glass completed a 25-yard pass to wide receiver Zabrian Moore to even the scoring.
Now in the third overtime period, the Bulldogs got first possession once again. With that possession, Bentley scored his fourth touchdown of the game. The Bulldogs got to the ASU 6. Facing a third down, Glass dumped a pass to Bentley, who was able to get into the end zone. A&M was able to get the two-point conversion and took a 43-35 lead.
It was now Alabama State’s turn to answer. Just like they did in the first overtime, Davis and the Hornets found themselves facing another fourth down with the game on the line. And just like in the first overtime, Davis delivered. He found Allen for not only the conversion, but the 17-yard score. Life beat once again into the hearts of the Alabama State fans, but they weren’t out of the woods yet. They still needed to convert the two-point conversion. Jefferson would be the key man and everyone knew it. Jefferson attempted a simple slant pattern, and Davis threw him the ball, but the two were unable to connect. With the pass falling incomplete, it sealed another win in the Magic City Classic for the Bulldogs.
Saturday’s outcome also pulls the two teams closer in the SWAC East Conference standings.
Up next for Alabama State is yet another road game. They’ll travel to Mississippi Valley State next Saturday. That game will kick off at 1 p.m.