by Jake McDonald, CORE 360 Magazine
Toothless canines showed up from Alabama A&M for Saturday’s 72nd Magic City Classic game against arch rival Alabama State Hornets. Quarterback Daniel Duhart threw for three touchdowns and running back Malcolm Cyrus rushed for 138 yards to lead the Hornets (6-2) to a 31-7 win over the Bulldogs.
There was pageantry, celebrities, concerts, parties, and plenty of fans surrounding the annual Classic. The only thing missing was good football. Alabama A&M and Alabama State combined for 22 penalties for 208 yards.
"This was a really good win for this team," Head Coach Reggie Barlow said. "We were real sloppy today. Defensively we kept jumping off-sides and offensively we were sputtering there for a while. We found a way to make some plays and we found a way to get it done even though we didn't play the way we liked."
Neither team converted on third down as the first quarter ended with a pair of goose eggs on the scoreboard. The lone bright spot was Cyrus. The junior from Autaugaville, Alabama was given the bulk of the carries over Isaiah Crowell rushing 6 times for 34 yards in the process.
Bama State threatened to score twice in the first quarter coming up empty both times. Alex Rothman’s first field goal attempt, a 32 yarder, was short of the uprights. His second attempt was blocked by senior DB Derrick Harris.
The Hornets finally stopped shooting themselves in the foot putting together a 12 play 74 yard scoring drive. Jarrett Neely made the catch behind diving DB Derrick Harris at the 3 spun and dove across the goal line before safety A.J. Clark could take a step.
Cyrus led the charge for the Hornets second score by ripping off a 48 yard run from State’s 16 yard line. After a touchdown nullifying holding penalty, Duhart kept the chains moving in chunks finding Earl Lucas for a 38 yard play to the Bulldogs 15. Duhart went back to Bell in the same corner of the endzone for six. This time there were no yellow hankies on the ground.
Halftime finally brought the listless crowd to life. Actress LisaRaye McCoy circled the field and posed for almost certain immediate Instagram pictures. Before the bands took the field actor/director/rap star O’Shea Jackson aka Ice Cube greeted the crowd. A&M’s Marching Maroon and White took the field first followed by the Marching Hornets.
As the bands returned to the stands and the celebrities headed back to their seats in the suites or the airport, the congestion on the sidelines vanished. That’s just the way it is with HBCU Classic games.
With the start of a new half, Alabama A&M Head Coach Anthony Jones made a move under center replacing ineffective starter Brandon Wells. Wells had completed 3 passes for 12 yards and generating just 83 yards of offense. Jaymason Lee replaced Wells and guided the Bulldogs on its longest drive of the game to that point. His pass to tight end Jonathan Dorsey picked up 43 yards down to the Hornets 1 yard line. Positioned to cut the lead in half, Lee fumbled the exchange that was recovered by DL Derrick Billups.
The threat didn’t generate any points but it left the Hornets in a hole too big to escape. Lee and the Bulldogs were granted a short field after the defense held the Hornets to 3 downs.
Najee Bright cut short any of the Bulldogs hopes of scoring intercepting Lee at the 34 and returning it 35 yards to the A&M 35.
Duhart didn’t waste the field position hitting a streaking Earl Lucas for a 39 yard touchdown to start the fourth quarter.
Wells returned to the game for the final two plays of the Bulldogs first drive of the final quarter. A quarter of watching from the sideline paid dividends for Wells. On his first pass attempt, he found WR Montarius Smith in the middle of the zone that the speedy receiver was able to outrun the defense to the endzone.
The Bulldogs threatened to score just once more but it was too little too late. Alabama State improves their lead in the all time series to 38 wins, 36 losses and 3 ties. Alabama A&M still holds a 36 win to 31 win lead over Alabama State in the Magic City Classic.
Ironically, these Hornets will be rooting for these same Bulldogs in a couple of weeks. Alabama A&M faces East Division leader Jackson State on November 9 in Huntsville. Alabama State needs Jackson State to lose if they are to have a shot at reaching the SWAC Championship Game in December.
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