Magic City Classic. Those three words are synonymous with what has been a long-standing tradition of one of the best college football rivalries in the state of Alabama. Since 1946, Alabama A&M verses Alabama State have played at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama. The matchup between the two schools go back to 1924. Last year the A&M Bulldogs won an overtime thriller 42-41 over the Hornets. It was fortunate for them because they lost the chance to close out the game in regulation on a blocked field goal. That was the Bulldogs second win in the last three match ups.

This year, the Hornets came in needing a win to keep pace with their in-state rivals in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC).  Both teams are currently chasing Alcorn State atop the Eastern Division of the Conference. On a cold day, it was the Hornets defense that came to play early in the contest. It started with an interception for a touchdown by Ronnie Scott. Scott’s pick six for 59 yards would be all the scoring for the Hornets in the first half. The defense held the Bulldogs to 14 yards rushing and 48 yards passing. It wasn’t like Bulldogs were defunct of defense themselves. Their only score of the first half came in the second quarter on a safety. Vernon Moland was responsible for getting the first points on the board for the Bulldogs. The first half closed with a 7-2 lead by the Hornets.

It seemed like both schools made second half adjustments, especially on the offensive side of the ball. The Bulldogs were the first team to have an offensive touchdown on their first drive of the second half. Miles only carried the ball twice on the day, one of those was a three-yard touchdown. He did of course have two receptions for a total of 27 yards. When points seemed to be a premium, that touchdown shifted momentum to the Bulldogs. On the ensuing kickoff, the Hornets returned the ball to their 40-yard line. However, a personal foul call moved the ball to the Bulldogs 45. This was all the Hornets needed. They would rush the ball seven straight times, culminating in a 12-yard touchdown by Alex Anderson. He lost control of the ball as he flipped into the end zone, but it wasn’t enough visual evidence to overturn the call. The pendulum shifted as the Hornets took a 14-9 lead. That would end the scoring in the third quarter, as both teams traded punts on their next possessions.

The fourth quarter began the same way the previous quarter ended. Neither team could effectively move the ball on the other. It seemed like it was back to a defensive battle, with both teams punting a couple times. Then with a little over four minutes left in the game, the Bulldogs’ Trevon Walters fumbled at his own nine-yard line. Treyon Garnett recovered for the Hornets. The Hornets took full advantage of the turnover by scoring a touchdown on third-and-goal. Darryl Pearson connected with Chett LeVay for an eight-yard pass that would give them a 21-9 lead with 2:41 left in the game.  The Bulldogs refused to give up though. Marceles Clash returned the kickoff to the Hornets 26 yard-line. Four plays later, Jordan Bentley rushed for a two-yard touchdown and the score was now 21-16. The Bulldogs onside kick worked and they got the ball back. But wait, it was an offside penalty. There goes the chances of a comeback. Not so fast! The Bulldogs did the unthinkable, they recovered the second onside kick attempt. With 1:41 left on the clock, they had the ball at their own 43-yard line. Could this be another last second thriller? The Bulldogs moved the ball down to the Hornets 35-yard line with under a minute to play. That’s when four straight incomplete passes stalled their hopes of a comeback win. The Hornets got in victory formation and kneeled to run out the last 30 seconds of the game.

Alabama State (2-5) got the upset 21-16 victory over Alabama A&M (3-6). The Hornets quarterback, Darryl Pearson, was 7 of 16 for 28 yards passing. But it was his legs that led the team to a win. He rushed nine times for 85 yards. The Bulldogs had their own 85-yard man. Trevon Walters carried the ball 17 times for his 85 yards. After the game, interim head coach Donald Hill-Eley said, “These young men showed their resilience. They played until the end, and found a way to come out with a win. There are some things we have to clean up, but we’ll enjoy this one.” All 61,221 in attendance, enjoyed another great classic between these two teams. Alabama A&M still leads the series 40-38-3. It will be Alabama State who will have bragging rights for the next 364 days though. Make sure you are in attendance next year for one of the largest HBCU events in the nation.