While the scripts were decidedly different, the outcome, not to mention the anguish, was the same on Saturday for the football teams at Troy and South Alabama.
Both were in position for a national attention-grabbing victory on the road. Both walked away with heartbreaking losses. South Alabama lost to UCLA, 32-31, when the Bruins hit a game-winning field goal on the final play at the Rose Bowl. Troy’s loss may have been more difficult to take as the Trojans fell 32-28 on a final play Hail Mary pass that covered 53 yards.
“I'm hurt for our guys,” said Troy head coach Jon Sumrall. “They battled, they competed, they've come a long way, they did everything we asked them to do. I'm hurt for them, I wish there was something I could do for them right now. We have to pick ourselves off the mat. We gave them everything we had, and we came up short. We could have executed better at the end, but that's on me."
Troy took a 28-24 lead with 10:10 left on a 1-yard plunge by Kimani Vidal. The touchdown capped a 12-play, 64-yard drive that began with 24 seconds left in the third quarter. Troy quarterback Gunnar Watson threw for 55 yards on the drive and 302 yards overall.
Appalachian State followed with a long drive that took all but 1:13 off the clock. It ended at the Troy 2-yard line when Mountaineer quarterback Chase Brice threw an incomplete pass on 4th-and-goal.
Troy ran three plays before Watson was tackled for a safety on fourth down, trimming the Troy lead to 28-26. After three incomplete passes, Appalachian State was down to its final shot. Brice threw the ball toward the end zone where Christian Horn caught it short and raced in for the game-winning score.
South Alabama got two scores in a 40-second span late in the third to take a 31-23 lead over UCLA. Marco Lee rushed 1 yard for a touchdown to give South Alabama a 24-23 lead with 1:43 left in the third quarter. On the next play from scrimmage, a bad UCLA snap was recovered by South Alabama’s Ed Smith IV at the UCLA 6-yard line. South Alabama covered the distance on a 2-yard run by La’Damian Webb, who finished with a career best 124 yards, and a 4-yard pass from Carter Bradley to Caullin Lacy and carried a 31-23 lead into the fourth quarter.
UCLA scored early in the fourth quarter but failed on a two-point conversion. South Alabama looked on its way to possibly clinching the win later in the quarter. But a long drive stalled and the Jaguars lined up for a field goal attempt from the UCLA 22-year line. South Alabama coach Kane Wommack called for a fake and holder Tanner McGee was sacked for a 11-yard loss with 2:52 remaining.
The Bruins swiftly moved down the field and eventually set up a 24-yard field goal on the final play by Nicholas Barr-Mira.
“We felt like going up against a quarterback like this, he is going to go on a two-minute drive, and we felt like we needed to make it an eight-point game instead of a field goal,” Wommack said of the late game decision. “I had that play; we just came up short but in all honesty we had too many other opportunities, but credit to them. They executed a little bit better than we did.”
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