Mighty in Mississippi: Busters use last-second FG to trip Copiah-Lincoln, 31-29
By ADAM HOLT
BILOXI, Miss. --âï On Dec. 2, 2010, Jeff Tatum was named head coach of the Garden City Community College football program. Two years later, to the day, and he's helped make the Broncbusters a bowl champion.
In a back-and-forth game that featured a frantic finish in the final 41 seconds, Garden City beat No. 7 Copiah-Lincoln in the Mississippi Bowl on Sunday, 31-29, on a 32-yard field goal by Tyler Peterson as time expired.
"I tell you what, anytime you win a game like that, it's great to feel," Tatum said. "And with it being in a bowl game, a championship type game, life doesn't get any better than that."
The Busters had allowed a 33-yard go-ahead touchdown on a pass from Chandler Rogers to Christian Keene with 41 seconds left, bringing a Co-Lin-heavy crowd at Biloxi Indians Stadium to its feet. The Wolfpack went for a 2-point conversion, but Rogers' pass fell incomplete. Co-Lin led 29-28.
After a modest kick return by Tyreek Hill, the Busters were at their own 19-yard line with 36 seconds to play. Quarterback Nick Marshall, who earlier was taken out of the game with a head injury, chucked a long pass to Rod Coleman down the left side of the field into double coverage. Cornerback Jeremy Davis tipped the ball, but as he and Coleman were falling to the ground, the ball ended up in Coleman's stomach for a 59-yard gain.
"It got deflected," Coleman said. "But as I got down on the ground, I kept my concentration, and seen the ball come to me, and I caught it."
"We've gotta pick that ball off," Co-Lin head coach Glenn Davis said. "Ball's in the air that long, we've gotta go get it."
With the clock ticking down from 22 seconds, Marshall slung a pass to Jamal Tyler, who cut up the field, then to the inside, falling down at the 10-yard line, and Garden City used its final timeout.
"When I caught the pass, my first instinct was to get in the middle of the field," said Tyler, who rushed for 94 yards and three touchdowns.
Tyler Peterson came out to attempt a 27-yard field goal, having already missed from 37 earlier in the game. Co-Lin used a timeout to ice the kicker, and then, with four seconds left and the game on the line, the Busters committed a false start, backing the kick up 5 yards.
Didn't matter. Peterson nailed the field goal, then took off running the other way in celebration, hounded by his teammates.
"I don't remember," Peterson said of the kick. "It just all came on instinct."
The kick sealed a 7-4 season for Garden City, and its first bowl win since 2001, moving the Busters' all-time record in bowl games to 9-10-1.
Meanwhile, what looked like the latest in a stretch of remarkable comebacks for Co-Lin turned into a heartbreaking loss for the Wolfpack, who finished 9-3. It was the first time in the Mississippi Bowl's five years that the trophy will leave the state.
"We screwed the state of Mississippi," Davis said. "That's just my thought. We didn't play as good as we've been playing, and you've got to give them a lot of credit. They played a great game."
The game was tied at 14 at halftime, and Garden City went up 27-23 on a 29-yard scoring run by Tyler late in the third. Co-Lin drove all the way down to the Garden City 26-yard line, but Rogers was intercepted by D'Vonta Derricott, who returned the ball 85 yards for what looked like a huge touchdown. But Derricott high-stepped the last yard into the end zone and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. No touchdown, ball placed at the 28-yard line. Two plays later, Marshall was intercepted.
"I was mad then," Derricott said. "I felt like I had to go back out there and make a play."
"I thought it was a ticky-tack call, to be honest," Tatum said. "But his opinion was he was showboating."
Garden City came up with just enough stops in the game âï-- which were intermittent, as the Wolves spread the ball around well. Rogers threw for 358 yards and four touchdowns, and receiver Joe Craig Jr. had 11 catches for 171 yards and three touchdowns. The Busters fared better when they brought blitzes or got pressure on Rogers, but that often left receivers open for the quarterback to hit.
Garden City got the ball back with 10:03 to play, and thanks to Hill, Tyler and Marshall, who would come out in the series due to wooziness, and was replaced by Jake Curran, drove the ball to the Co-Lin 28-yard line and killed almost eight minutes of clock before turning the ball over on downs with 2:31 to play.
Rogers got the Wolfpack the lead on the ensuing drive. But thanks to a remarkable and highly unlikely catch by Coleman, and a dead-on kick from Peterson, the Busters left the field as champions.
Marshall was 14-of-27 for 284 yards, while rushing for 99 yards --âï including an amazing 63-yard run where he broke tackles to get to the right sideline, then made people miss and reversed the field, going up the left sideline for a touchdown. He was also forced from the pocket often, and a number of times improbably escaped pressure to make a play. He was also brought down relatively often --âï being sacked or tackled for loss eight times, a rarity for the sophomore.
Marshall was named the GCCC offensive MVP, while Derricott was defensive MVP.
It was a surprising win for a team that never expected to be playing in a bowl at all. And after a 2-7 campaign in Tatum's first year, ending the 2012 season as a bowl champion didn't even seem like a remote possibility.
"Nope. I didn't even know if I wanted to keep playing football," sophomore Raul Silva, a Garden City High graduate, said. "I thought I was gonna be done, almost. This was the last thing I expected, that's for sure. I didn't even expect this a month ago. It's great."