National championship game turned on two critical plays

Published 5:05 am Sunday, December 10, 2006

Many times an athletic contest, especially a football game, can turn on one play.

Saturday, it actually took two to completely change the momentum of the juco national championship game.

For over 50 minutes, Blinn College’s defense did something that not many who follow juco football in Mississippi and particularly the plight of Pearl River ever would have imagined. The Bucaneers completely shut down the Wildcats’ usually explosive offense.

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But with about nine minutes to play and trailing just 5-0, PRCC faced a fourth down and four situation at the Blinn 38. That’s when Buc’s defensive end Alex Cook, arguably the best player on the field on this day, made the dumbest play of the game when he delievered a late hit on PRCC quarterback Carlton Hill and was flagged fo a 15-yard personal foul penalty.

The play gave the Wildcats a first down with eight minutes to play at the Blinn 23.

Unfortunately, though, Wildcat fans, while that could have turned out to be the biggest play of the game and propelled PRCC to its second national championship in three years, that’s not one of the two plays we’re talking about here.

No, because after being taken out of the game for three plays by Blinn head coach Dennis Franchione, Cook returned and rallied his Buc defenders and the crew held PRCC after a first and goal and forced a field goal try.

Wildcat freshman kicker Brad Bingham, the top juco kicker in the state of Mississippi, was called upon to try a 33 yard kick that would pull his team within two points. But, just as he had done earlier in the game, Bingham badly missed the boot and Blinn took over at its own 20.

That was turning point play one, and it didn’t take long for play two to occur.

On the next play, Buc standout running back Bernard Scott broke loose 80 yards on a touchdown run and the game was, for all intents and purposes, over at that point.

The old saying goes that good teams take advantage of those types of situations, and that’s exactly what Blinn, the better team on Saturday, certainly did.

“That was a huge turnaround,” Blinn head coach Brad Franchione, who also serves as the team’s defensive coordinator, said. “That was probably the biggest turn around of the game. They had a chance to pull within two points, but just like that we were ahead by two touchdowns.”