A Glance Infacet Jacksonville State’s Hail Mary
Miss KeKe used to be in tears.
But after all she used to be in tears. Keyetta Philyaw, recognized affectionately through that nickname, had simply witnessed what gave the look of a miracle.
Her oldest son, Damond Philyaw-Johnson, had stuck a 59-yard landing cross as time expired to raise Jacksonville State to a surprising 20–17 victory at Florida State. After the play, her son disappeared, buried underneath a dogpile of teammates in any case zone, they all jumping over each and every different to rejoice this faculty soccer season’s maximum electrical finishing but.
He after all emerged, stuck his breath and raced to his mom within the stands.
“I grabbed her hand and I told her I loved her,” Miss KeKe’s son stated. “She had tears in her eyes.”
In 5 years, Keyetta Philyaw used to be by no means ready to observe her son play a faculty soccer sport—till this evening.
Miss KeKe, a lodge housekeeper who cares for 2 more youthful kids, by no means had the monetary assets to trek the 27-hour roundtrip from the circle of relatives’s house in Pensacola, Fla., to Duke, the place her son performed receiver his first 4 years.
But there she sat, in Doak Campbell Stadium with Damond’s two more youthful siblings and his female friend, embracing one any other because the unthinkable took place.
This used to be all like a dream—a nightmare for Florida State, an FBS program with ACC championship and nationwide name banners, and jubilance for Jacksonville State, an FCS program positioned in north Alabama.
The Seminoles, 28-point favorites, led 17–7 with kind of 10 mins left within the sport and had JSU sponsored up by itself 3-yard line. The Gamecocks marched 97 yards for a landing, were given a large defensive forestall after which moved to the FSU 41-yard line with 15 seconds left within the sport. Three immediately incompletions later and so they had been met with a dire state of affairs: 59 yards from the function line with six seconds left.
Tyler Allen, a 25-year-old graduate assistant-turned-offensive coordinator, known as the play: Trips F Bullet Virginia. From the sideline, Allen signaled to his quarterback to throw the ball to the Z receiver.
“Zeeeee! Zeeeee,” he screamed whilst the usage of his finger to spell the letter within the air.
His quarterback, Zerrick Cooper, noticed it, took the shotgun snap and despatched flying a superbly positioned spiral into the palms of the staff’s quickest wideout. Philyaw-Johnson, the Z receiver, blew previous cornerback Jarvis Brownlee, stuck the cross across the 15-yard line, refrained from defensive again Sidney Williams on the 10 and coasted into the top zone.
“It was unbelievable,” stated Cooper.
Philyaw-Johnson isn’t your commonplace FCS participant. And Cooper isn’t your commonplace FCS QB. They each transferred from Power 5 methods. Coop, as they name him, used to be as soon as a backup at Clemson. Damond used to be probably the most nation’s best possible go back consultants in his time at Duke. He even stocks an NCAA single-game report: He returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in opposition to Wake Forest in 2019.
“He’s long and fast,” stated Allen, prior to now a GA at West Virginia and Troy underneath Neal Brown. “We try to get him the ball.”
He’s sensible too, having graduated from Duke with some extent in sociology and a minor in training. He’s a felony justice primary in grad college at JSU and can quickly paintings at a jail as a part of his fall coursework, even though he doesn’t know what jail or his position simply but.
“That’s up to the chief,” he quipped.
But again to soccer.
The play, Trips F Bullet Virginia, will endlessly be ingrained in Jacksonville State lore, a historical second for the 7,700-student college positioned a 90-minute force west of Atlanta. The play labored out of a formation that includes 3 receivers on one facet and one to the opposite, with a working again in movement. The receivers ran vertical routes.
In probably the most becoming twist, the play had failed such a lot of instances sooner than.
Allen known as the play 3 times in JSU’s ultimate 4 snaps. The first two? Incompletions.
“Third time’s a charm,” stated head trainer John Grass, an easy-going former highschool trainer who’s constructed an FCS powerhouse since taking up in 2014. “We felt like Damond could beat him. It was inside release and he got open. He got open the play before that too. Come back with the same play and made a great throw and catch.”
While Jacksonville State saved calling the similar play, Florida State saved taking part in the similar protection: man-to-man protection with two safeties who weren’t taking part in specifically deep. Even at the very closing snap, with six seconds left within the sport, FSU elected to not play a save you, deeper protection for the reason that Gamecocks had one timeout and wanted a box function to tie.
Still, in interviews with Sports Illustrated past due Saturday evening, JSU coaches anticipated extra of a save you protection.
“I’m surprised they didn’t get the safety over the top,” Allen stated. “They kept playing the same coverage, so we kept calling that play.”
Finally, it labored. And get this: it used to be Damond Philyaw-Johnson’s simplest catch of the sport.
“It’s surreal,” stated Philyaw-Johnson, giving an interview whilst nonetheless celebrating with teammates at the box. “They were trying to get me the ball throughout the game and it wasn’t working, but we connected. Someone had to make a play. One of us had to make a play.”
Jacksonville State has been recognized to offer the large boys bother. In reality, closing season, they held a first-half lead in contrast very Florida State staff sooner than dropping. In 2015, they took Auburn to additional time. In the FCS, the Gamecocks stormed to the nationwide name sport in 2015, have participated in 14 playoff video games since 2013 and gained six OVC titles within the closing seven seasons.
Yet nonetheless, the sector ceaselessly errors Jacksonville State for different colleges, says Greg Seitz, the athletic director at JSU. The college now and again receives mail addressed to Deion Sanders, the brand new head soccer trainer at Jackson State, the SWAC program in Jackson, Miss. And many consider that the college is positioned in Florida.
“So,” they’ll ask Seitz, “how far are you from the beach?” (Jacksonville State, positioned in Jacksonville, Ala., is ready 300 miles from the seashores of the Florida panhandle.)
In probably the most wildest confusions, Seitz as soon as won a six-figure sport test within the mail from an FBS program that meant to ship the test to Jackson State. And no, he didn’t money it.
What he’ll money: The $400,000 assured test the Noles paid JSU to come back to their position—and win.
It is a large chew for a Jacksonville State program with the cheap of $18 million. Florida State’s price range? Roughly $150 million. The Noles additionally get about 20 extra scholarship gamers.
“It’s a terrific feeling,” says Grass, whose squad is the 3rd FCS program this 12 months to overcome a Power 5 staff. “FCS schools are winning some games this year against FBS. FCS teams are mismatched. Just scholarship numbers But every game has a life of its own. You gotta play the game.”
For a mother and her son, Saturday used to be further particular.
Miss KeKe cried, Damond stuck and Jacksonville State gained.
“It’s insane,” says Allen. “It’s insane.”
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