MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The 96th annual Turkey Day Classic will go down as a heartbreaker for fans of the Alabama State Hornets. With a shot to tie the game and potentially force overtime, the game-tying field goal attempt was blocked, sinking the Hornets’ (5-6, 4-3) chances of a winning season in the 20-17 loss to Prairie View A&M (6-5, 4-3).
It started out okay, and then it got not great, and then it got really good and then it got sad. That pretty much sums up how the Turkey Day Classic went for Alabama State this year.
The Hornets were the first on the board, breaking a scoreless game in the second quarter on the foot of Hunter Hanson. The Hornets had held the Panthers scoreless in the first after stopping them in the red zone multiple times forcing a missed field goal and a turnover on downs, but couldn’t capitalize off of either opportunity as ASU fumbled the ball back to Prairie View and punted on the remainder of its first quarter drives.
In the second quarter, following Hanson’s field goal, the Hornets defense kept up the solid work, but a miscue at the end of the half made things more difficult than they should have been going into the break.
Prairie View first got on the board with 22 seconds remaining in the second quarter. A 13-play drive lasted 4:15 and ended with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Trazon connley to Tristen Wallace.
That’s not where things get ugly. The Panthers were back in the end zone 15 seconds later following another Hornets fumble, this one coming on the kickoff that followed PVAMU’s first touchdown.
With 7 seconds remaining in the half, Connley threw his second touchdown pass of the game, this one a 20-yard pass to Kalen Riles who was unopposed on his route to the end zone.
After half, the Alabama State offense kicked it into gear.
Prairie View looked like it had delivered the knockout punch with 3:03 to play in the third quarter after a 12-yard touchdown run by Dawonya Tucker, but the Hornets quickly responded.
On the final play of the third quarter, Michael Jefferson caught the first of his two touchdown passes in the game to bring the lead to 20-9. Hanson’s extra point attempt was no good and this would be just the beginning of ASU’s special teams troubles.
Jefferson’s second touchdown reception was a spectacular one-handed grab on a back shoulder throw from KHA’Darris Davis. Jefferson’s highlight reel catch pulled the Hornets to within five points. They went for the two-point conversion and succeeded, bringing the score to 20-17.
From the 9:40 mark on it was a defensive battle until the very end. When Alabama State needed it most, it was able to force a PVAMU punt to get the ball back over to the offense with a chance to either go for the tie or go for the win.
With the ball and 1:49 to play, the Hornets got to work on a 13-play, 55-yard drive. On the drive, Alabama State converted a 3rd and 10 and a 4th and 12 to give itself a chance. It came down to a Hunter Hanson field goal attempt from the 13-yard line to potentially tie the game and send things into overtime. A poor snap was handled by the holder, but Hanson’s attempt was blocked by Prairie View’s Anthony Craven and with it, blocked were the hopes of Alabama State finishing with a winning record for the first time in four seasons.
Alabama State finished the year 5-6 and has its six-game winning streak in the Turkey Day Classic snapped.