Alabama State ended the four-game Magic City Classic drought with a 24-17 victory

Eddie Robinson Jr. he needed a shower after a shower.

And that first shower – even though the weather was dry – never felt so good.

The first-year football coach at Alabama State University was drenched in a cooler of water at midfield at Legion Field Stadium after his Hornets ended four seasons of misery by defeating rival Alabama A&M 24-17 in 81 last Saturday.Holy McDonald’s Magic City Classic presented by Coca-Cola.

“It was nice, but cold,” Robinson said of the postgame celebration. “I hope each of them will be like that until the last game. It’s stressful, but the fans deserve it. It’s just a great day for SWAC football. I love it.”

Later, a dejected A&M coach Connell Maynor — who proclaimed himself Mr. Four-peat — explained where things had turned.

“We started well. We were up (14-3) at halftime,” he said. “The momentum seemed to change on the dropped punt, the subdued punt that we had.

Isiah Cox failed to field Aubrey Grace’s punt in the third quarter, which bounced off his hands and into the arms of Hornet gunner Donte Norris. Five plays later, Bama State quarterback Dematrius Davis found Kisean Johnson on a 9-yard touchdown pass to cut the Bulldog lead to 14-10.

“They got the momentum from there,” Maynor said.

Bama State (4-3, 2-2) took a 17-14 lead early in the fourth quarter on Jacory Merritt’s 4-yard run. A&M tied the score at 17-all on Victor Barbosa’s 37-yard field goal, but Davis, the offensive MVP, hit Jeremiah Hixon with a 23-yard TD to take the lead with 2 minutes left.

But the game wasn’t over as the Bulldogs launched their final attack. The Huntsville team marched from their own 30 to the Hornet 9.

“I tell my offense to get ready for overtime,” Robinson recalled. “It’s one of those things where you have to go all the way with it. I’m just glad we played one more game than them.”

Quincy Casey’s pass to Cameron Young went to the 5th, but he couldn’t get out of bounds to stop the clock. With no time limits left, Maynor and his men were helpless as the final seconds ticked away.

State linebacker Colton Adams was named defensive MVP, leading the Hornets with 11 total tackles, including seven unassisted. Assisted in one tackle for loss.

Saturday’s loss crippled A&M’s (3-4, 1-3) bid to win the Southwestern Athletic Conference East Division and a spot in the SWAC Championship game. This was made even more painful when the loss came at the hands of his domestic rival.

“You could say it’s a double whammy,” Maynor said. “We need a lot of help now. We have to do what we have to do and we need a lot of help. I don’t know if that’s going to happen.”

Meanwhile, Hornet Nation is now in the Bulldog Fan Club.

“We really need A&M to win the rest of their games,” Robinson said. “Everybody has to beat Jackson (State) to help us. It’s a one-day rivalry for me. You hate Alabama A&M in the Magic City Classic day, but … I love Alabama A&M for the next 364 days.

“Jackson is obviously playing great right now,” the Hornets coach said. “All we can do is win the rest of our games.

Jackson State improved to 8-0 and 5-0 with a 35-0 victory over Southern on Saturday.

Robinson cast his “vote” for Legion Field

The contract between the city of Birmingham and the universities expires this year and many fans have wondered if the annual rivalry could be moved to the city center’s Protective Stadium.

Maynor was noncommittal on the subject, saying he has to prepare his team for where the game is played. Robinson, whose personal Magic City Classic winning streak, including his playing days, extended to three games, said no other venue will match historic Legion Field.

“I only knew it here,” the Hornets coach said, “so it would be hard for me to get to the Magic City Classic and not Legion Field. Many fans here didn’t go to Alabama State or Alabama A&M, but they just love the Magic City Classic. I think the people and the fans are what make the event so special, so I think you know what my vote would be.”

Latecomers to Saturday’s game had a long line at the shuttle pickup point at the Birmingham CrossPlex. Those who arrived late were greeted by additional long lines as they made their way to Legion Field.

But the overall vibe around the stadium was what longtime fans knew: a return to a fully traditional Classic.

There was a tapestry of sights and sounds as fans caught up with old friends and made new ones.

A smoky haze rose over the Legion field as the gates were grilled to their heart’s delight. As always, many of them never came to the stadium, contentedly soaking up the atmosphere that was a treat for the senses.

“It’s the same every year. Just a great time, a great time of fellowship,” said West End’s Brian Jones. “It’s always great to see Greeks and alumni and just people from Birmingham coming together and having a great time. It’s over now (after the game), but hours ago it was just groups of people having a great time, being able to come together and celebrate the Magic City Classic, celebrate two great universities in the great city of Birmingham.”

Marilyn Jones is a native of Mobile. The resident of Birmingham’s Five Points West Neighborhood said she has been to the Magic City Classic for the past 20 years and has enjoyed it every year.

But he understands that change may be on the way.

“Some things have to end. A lot of times we don’t want it to end, but some things have to change,” she said. “I prefer it to stay at Legion Field, but I’m just a porter. … It’s all the camaraderie of everyone together.”


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