NORMAL, Ala. — Alabama A&M was reeling Saturday afternoon, but the Bulldogs got up off the mat just in time to keep their Southwestern Athletic Conference championship hopes alive.
Down by a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter and in overtime, quarterback Deaunte Mason engineered two touchdown drives as A&M rallied for a 24-23 victory in overtime at Louis Crews Stadium.
“We really needed that,” A&M coach Anthony Jones said after his team snapped its two-game losing streak. “No unit played great, but each side played efficient enough to get the job done.”
A&M led 10-0 at intermission, but Southern scored 17 unanswered points to take a 17-10 advantage midway through the fourth quarter. It could have been worse had Matthew Hill not miss a 47-yard field goal.
“We were at our darkest hour,”Jones said. “If they kick the field goal, the game is going to be over.”
Fortunately, Hill missed and Mason and company came to life.
He engineered a 12-play, 73-yard drive to tie the game and force overtime when he found Montaurius Smith with a 7-yard touchdown pass with 30 seconds left in regulation.
“They were in man-to-man coverage, and coach Jones told me to run my options,”Smith said. “He played a little bit too hard to the inside, and I cut across his face and Deaunte threw the pass away from him, and I made the play.”
Southern scored to take the lead in overtime, but Matthew Hill missed the extra point to leave the Jaguars clinging to a 23-17 advantage.
After picking up a first down, A&M faced a fourth-and-11 from the Southern 16.
Mason found Terrance Pride, who was short of the first down when he caught the ball, but Pride slithered his way through two defenders and got the first down.
“I thought the ball was coming to me by reading the defense,”Pride said, “and I had to step up and make a play.”
One play later, Mason scored on a 1-yard run and Chance Wilson’s extra point gave A&M the victory.
“We didn’t play together as a team the last two games,” Smith said. “Today, we were on the sidelines and everybody was encouraging each other, and we saw what the result was.”
A&M finished with just 214 yards in total offense, but that was enough.
“We needed a close game like this,” Pride said. “We had been blowing everybody out and we lost focus. A game like this, where you have to fight and stick together, brings use closer together as a team and makes us better.”
“This is something that can be good for the team,” he said. “If we stick together we’re capable of doing anything.”
Jones called the win a total team effort.
“We needed a team win and that’s what we got,” he said. “When our offense needed to respond, they responded. When our defense needed to respond, they responded. When our special teams needed to respond, they responded.
“Each unit had to be great down the stretch and in overtime to pull out that win.”