October 27, 2007

Trinity (Texas) uses historic 15-lateral play to knock off Millsaps

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In perhaps the greatest single play finish in college football history at any level, 19th-ranked Trinity University converted a 60-yard play for the winning score as time expired with 15 laterals to stun 24th-ranked Millsaps on Homecoming in front of a near capacity crowd. 

Plainly put, you had to see it to believe it.

In a battle of two Top 25 teams, a first in the SCAC in the same season in league history, Trinity bounced back from a loss in Jackson a year ago to earn a leg up in the race for the conference title and an automatic berth into the Division III playoffs.

Trinity (7-1, 4-1 SCAC) scored on its opening possession for an early 7-0 lead, taking advantage of a 33-yard return from Caleb Urban on the opening kickoff and driving 54 yards on four plays, capped off by a 25-yard TD run from running back Chris Baer — his team-leading ninth of the year.

After a Millsaps (6-2, 5-1 SCAC) three-and-out on its opening drive and a William Lawrimore 42 yard punt, the momentum clearly seemed to be in favor of the visitors until Urban muffed the return and a diving Eric McCarty recovered the ball in Tiger territory at the 40-yard line for the Majors.

No harm done though for the Tigers, as freshman kicker Taylor Russolino missed a 32-yard field goal attempt wide left to keep Millsaps scoreless. Trinity took over at its own 20-yard line after the miss.

On the Tigers' ensuing possession from their own 47-yard line, senior Blake Barmore was picked off by Jacob Hanberry who brought the ball down to the 22-yard line before being forced out of bounds.

Two plays later with the ball inside the TU 20-yard line, an underthrown pass from Millsaps quarterback Juan Joseph at the 4-yard line resulted in a Lee Patterson interception and a huge turnover for the Majors. The pick also snapped a stretch of 149 consecutive pass attempts without an interception for Joseph.

Millsaps, however, returned the favor on the following TU possession, as senior strong safety Ray Kline picked off Barmore's pass at the Millsaps 44-yard line and returned it 36 yards down to the TU 20.

The Majors would not be denied this time, using a pair of completions from Joseph to senior Louis Conley, including a 12-yard strike on third-and-goal from the TU 12-yard line to knot the game at 7-7 with 4:24 remaining in the first quarter of play.

Trinity would add a 39-yard field goal from Peter Licalzi on its opening possession in the second quarter to head into the locker room on top 10-7, capping off a 10-play, 32-yard drive over 3:51.

A fired up Millsaps came out of the locker room in the second half and lit up the scoreboard right away, using a 39-yard kick return from Guy Smith to set up shop at their own 48-yard line before a 1-play, 52-yard touchdown strike from Joseph to Eric McCarty and a 14-10 Millsaps lead — their first of the game.

It was Joseph's 22nd touchdown pass of the year, breaking the single-season school record of 21 that he set last year in the same game.

The Tigers responded on the ensuing possession after starting the drive at their own 8-yard line, using five consecutive completions from Barmore and a 28-yard run from Chris Baer to punch the ball inside the Majors' 10-yard line. 

A timely sack from Denarold Anderson on first-and-goal and a pair of stops from Lee Klein and Ray Kline, however, forced the TU drive to stall as Licalzi knocked through his second field goal of the game from 28-yards out to bring the score to 14-13.

With 3:47 remaining in the third, Millsaps took over at the TU 42-yard line after forcing the Tigers into a fourth-and-23 and a 36-yard punt from Max Schuster. 

Senior fullback Neil Woodall picked up a big third-and-one from the TU 16 and Joseph connected with senior Kennedy Griffin for four yards down to the TU 10 before another big defensive stop from the Tigers off a Brian Marynowitz interception in the end zone resulted in a touchback and a third missed opportunity inside the red zone for the Majors.

After the Millsaps defense forced a three-and-out on Trinity's final drive of the third quarter, the Majors stretched the lead to 21-13 on their opening drive of the fourth, using a Joseph to Raymece Savage hookup from 3-yards out to cap off a 9-play, 44-yard drive over 3:03. 

The two teams traded field goals over the next several possessions to bring the score to 24-16 in favor of Millsaps until a 12-play, 72-yard drive from the Tigers cut the lead to 24-22 with 2:11 remaining and set up the all important two-point conversion.

Barmore rolled to his right and avoided a couple defenders before senior Casey Younger drug the 6-foot-3, 213-pound senior quarterback to the turf to keep Trinity out of the end zone.

On the ensuing onside kick attempt from Licalzi, the ball took a friendly Millsaps bounce into the sure hands of McCarty at the TU 43, giving the Majors 1:37 on the scoreboard to try and run out the clock. 

Three short runs from junior Nick Namias brought the ball down to the TU 35-yard line, setting up a fourth-and-two and forcing head coach Mike DuBose and the Majors to call a timeout with 8 seconds left.

Out of the timeout, backup quarterback Burt Pereira entered the game in the shotgun formation and scrambled around in the backfield before Ryan Johnson made the tackle with 2 seconds remaining on the clock at the TU 40-yard line to force a turnover-on-downs.

The rest is history. Now known as the "Mississippi Miracle" or "Major Travesty" if you were a fan of Millsaps on Saturday and shown all over national television including ESPN, Trinity completed one of the, if not the most remarkable single play in college football history.

With Millsaps rushing three and dropping eight into a prevent defense, Barmore completed a 16-yard pass to Shawn Thompson over the middle of the field, thus beginning 15 successful laterals that traveled 60 yards and touched eight different players over a span of 62 seconds after the final buzzer had sounded.

Destiny was on the Tigers' sideline at Harper Davis Field on Saturday as the final lateral bounced off the turf and right into the hands of Riley Curry who sprinted 32-yards down the TU sideline untouched for the dramatic score and the 28-24 win.

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