No. 2: Busters' football bowl win highlights turnaround season
Editor's Note: This is the ninth in a series of 10 stories counting down the top sports stories of 2012 as voted on by The Telegram staff.
By ADAM HOLT
It wasn't the ending the Broncbusters wanted, but the Garden City Community College football team could sit back and feel good about itself soon after its Region VI playoff loss to No. 2 Butler in early November.
After all, the Busters had improved from two to six wins, and went on to produce 11 all-conference selections, including Kansas Jayhawk Conference offensive player of the year Nick Marshall, as well as the coach of the year in Jeff Tatum.
But the season still felt like it lacked a signature moment, a lasting memory that summed up the campaign.
That was until the Busters earned a bowl bid, to face then-No. 7 Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) in the Mississippi Bowl.
And after Tyler Peterson's 32-yard field goal went through the uprights as time expired at Biloxi Indians Stadium in Biloxi, Miss., on Dec. 2, Garden City had its signature moment, plus a signature win and a bowl championship.
GCCC football's turnaround, and its wild win over Co-Lin make it The Telegram's No. 2 sports story of 2012.
The Busters had a 28-23 lead with under three minutes to go in the game, before giving the ball back to the Wolfpack. Quarterback Chandler Rogers led a quick scoring drive, connecting on a 33-yard touchdown pass to Christian Keene with 41 seconds to play. After a failed 2-point conversion, the Wolves led, 29-28. Things didn't look good for Garden City, especially since Co-Lin finished its season with a string of such unlikely wins and late comebacks.
"I panicked a little bit, I'm not gonna lie about that," GCCC head coach Tatum said after Garden City went down 29-28. "Because that's the way they've won their last two games, that's the reason they're here, is they found a way to win with less than a minute to go. "
Following the kickoff, the Busters had 36 seconds to work with, and the ball on their own 19-yard line.
Marshall came back in the game at quarterback after missing a drive with a head injury, and on the first play of the series, threw up a long ball for receiver Rod Coleman into double coverage. The ball was deflected by cornerback Jeremy Davis, and he and Coleman fell to the ground.
The ball fell to Coleman, who snatched it out of the air for a 59-yard gain to get Garden City into field goal range with less than 30 seconds to play.
"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."
A short pass to running back Jamal Tyler got the ball to the center of the field and set up a 27-yard field goal with 4 seconds to play. Co-Lin called a timeout to ice Peterson.
Then the Busters were flagged for a false start, backing them up five yards — and Peterson had already missed from 37 yards earlier in the game.
No drama this time. The kick was on target, and Peterson turned and ran away to the opposite sideline with his arms up in celebration. His teammates followed.
"Different from anything," Peterson said of the feeling after making the field goal. "I'll never forget it."
And just like that, an unlikely comeback by the Wolfpack was upstaged by an even unlikelier one by the Busters. For the first time in the five years the Mississippi Bowl was staged, the trophy was leaving the state of Mississippi.
The win improved Garden City's all-time bowl record to 9-10-2. After making 14 bowl games in a span of 14 years from the late 1980s to the early 2000s, the Busters said they hope to start a new stretch of postseason appearances. But they would be hard-pressed to match the excitement of their 2012 Mississippi Bowl win.
"I can honestly say it's the greatest win I've ever been associated with," Tatum said. "For a lot of reasons. No. 1 is where we started and where we finished over a two-year period. It's a great win.
"Also, here's a team that wasn't expected to win that fought all the way through and won — and came from behind, when it looked like there was no chance of winning the game, and I guarantee you people in the stands were saying, 'Hey, at least they had a great year.' Our kids never heard that; they said 'Hey, we're gonna go win this football game.'
"I can't describe how proud I am for them. It's a great win for me, and I know it's the greatest win in their life, because it's the greatest win in my life, and I've been in a lot more football games."