Alabama State's rally from a deep first-half deficit came up one-point short as the Hornets lost to Alabama A&M, 20-19 in the 70th edition of the State Farm Magic City Classic presented by Coca-Cola.
Alabama State (6-2 overall, 6-1 Southwestern Athletic Conference) fell behind 17-0 early in the second quarter, as the Bulldogs converted an ASU fumble into a touchdown and drove for a second touchdown after a missed Hornet field goal.
Alabama State, which could have clinched the Eastern Division title with a victory, now must finish ahead of Alabama A&M in the conference standings to clinch a berth in the SWAC Championship for the second consecutive season. The Hornets finish the SWAC schedule at Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Nov. 5) and hosting Southern (Nov. 12). Alabama A&M (6-2, 5-1) concludes its conference schedule at Alcorn State (Nov. 5), vs. Jackson State (Nov. 12), and at Prairie View A&M (Nov 19).
"We put ourselves in the hole from the start," head coach Reggie Barlow said. "We didn't play well. I'm held accountable for that. We didn't do a good job of getting these guys ready to go. We came and we lost. We had everything for us right there and we didn't take advantage of it."
Alabama State chipped away at the deficit with a pair of Bobby Wenzig field goals (48, 46) later in the period to trail 17-6 at halftime.
After Alabama A&M (6-2, 5-1) extended the lead to 20-6 on the first drive of the second half, Alabama State scored its first touchdown of the game. A nine-play, 72-yard drive ended with a Devin Dominguez one-yard scoring run to cut the AAMU lead to 20-13 with 4:40 to play in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Hornets drove 80 yards in six plays, as Dominguez scored on 59-yard touchdown run with 10:08 to play. However, Wenzig's PAT was blocked by Chartavious Keith. Alabama State went three-and-out on its next possession, and Alabama A&M ran the final 5:12 off the clock.
It was the second of two blocked kicks for Alabama A&M, as Wenzig had a field-goal attempt blocked late in the first half.
"Whenever you have a PAT you're going for and you can't get in, it's a bad thing to have it blocked," Barlow said. "We've had a couple of them blocked this year and we have to find the right personnel, and do a better job of coaching it up so we understand what we are trying to get done. We have a heck of a kicker, and he's a weapon, but if we're going to get them blocked, then we're not going to have the opportunity to use him like we need to."
WR Nick Andrews became the Hornets' career leader in receiving yards, as he caught nine passes for 134 yards. His 2,563 yards surpasses Barlow's 2,536 receiving yards. With 187 receptions for 2,563 yards and 26 receiving touchdowns, Andrews now holds the top three ASU career receiving records.
Dominguez replaced an injured Greg Jenkins early in the quarter and completed 15 of 30 passes for 206 yards, while rushing 15 times for 82 yards.
FS Kejuan Riley's third-quarter interception was his seventh of the season, tying a career high. Now with 14 career interceptions, Riley is tied for fourth in ASU history with Chauncey Watley (1975-78) and Edwin Ross (1984-87) in the category dating back to 1970.