College Football Throwback Thursday: The Mississippi Miracle
Have you heard of Trinity University? It’s a small DIII school in San Antonio, Texas, that quickly became known for its football team. So, how have you heard of the Trinity Tigers?
On Oct. 27, 2007, the Tigers faced the Millsaps Majors in a regular season contest. As the final seconds ticked down, Trinity successfully executed a 15-lateral pass to win the game.
Since Thursday marks the nine-year anniversary of the game, we throw back to what has been deemed the “Mississippi Miracle.”
As the Tigers stepped onto Millsaps’s field in Jackson, Mississippi, that day, they knew they needed a win to continue in the running for the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference, or SCAC, title, according to SCAC. It was Millsaps’ homecoming game, so fans crowded the stadium.
Both teams were 6-1 and ranked nationally, and Millsaps was the reigning SCAC champion, according to Trinity head coach Steve Mohr, who wrote in an email Wednesday that Millsaps was also a big rival for the Tigers.
“They beat us pretty good [in 2006],” said former Trinity wide receiver Shawn Thompson to ESPN. “Stormed the field. It was a pretty awesome environment, especially at the DIII level. Tore down the goalposts, shot off fireworks. It really put a bad taste in our mouths.”
According to SCAC, within the first two minutes of the 2007 game, Trinity running back Chris Baer posted a 25-yard run to score a touchdown. However, the lead was short lived as Millsaps tossed one into the end zone before the first quarter was completed.
Trinity posted a field goal for themselves and held Millsaps scoreless in the second quarter. But, after halftime, the game began to escalate in intensity. Going into the fourth quarter, Millsaps led 14-13.
Millsaps wide receiver Raymece Savage snagged a three-yard pass from quarterback Juan Joseph to try to expand the scores’ gap. The Tigers, trying to not let the game get away from them, tallied another three points on the board with a field goal. The Majors, however, sent one through the uprights as well. With a little more than four minutes left in the game, the Tigers trailed, 24-16.
In about two minutes, Trinity drove over 70 yards before Trinity quarterback Blake Barmore’s ball traveled 13 yards to find wide out Riley Curry’s hands. The team attempted a two-point conversion but failed, trailing by two with about two minutes left.
“When we scored, it wasn't a huge deal because, without the two-point conversion, it really wasn't going to mean anything,” said Curry to ESPN. “But we went for two and didn't get it, so at that point, we imagined the game was a little bit out of hand.”
Millsaps recovered Trinity’s attempt at an onside kick. Millsaps, with eight seconds left in the game, brought out its backup quarterback on fourth down to snap the ball and eat the remaining time. However, the Majors failed to run the clock all the way down or make a first down, so the Tigers regained possession with two seconds left in the game.
ESPN reported that Trinity’s offense gathered briefly with the head coach before heading back out to the field, deciding against a Hail Mary and opting for an underneath route.
The plan was for everyone to go deep except for Thompson, who would be Barmore’s actual target.
“Our only option was to run a short pass initially,” wrote Mohr. “And then, the QB instructed everyone to just get behind the first receiver and keep it alive somehow.”
The Majors were prepared to defend against a deep-thrown ball, and when that didn’t happen, it became difficult to defend from there.
“If you go back and watch the film, I close on [Thompson], tackle him and of course I didn't end up tackling him,” said Millsaps linebacker Ronnie Wheat to ESPN. “He threw it back, lateraled it, and so I got back up and went to tackle the next guy, and he lateraled it and I went to tackle the next guy and the next guy, and it just kind of progressed like that.”
According to ESPN, the play went something like this:
First, Thompson pitched it to Curry. Curry, after advancing to Millsaps’s 43, sent it to lineman Josh Hooten, who was at the 50. Hooten, almost immediately, threw a no-look, two-handed pitch to receiver Michael Tomlin. Lineman Stephen Arnold, who was around the Millsaps 48, nabbed the toss from Tomlin before pitching it to Thompson. Thompson found receiver Brandon Maddux around the Trinity 46, who cut across the field to send it to Curry at the 50. Curry sent it back to Maddux, who then passed it across the field to Barmore. Bringing it first to Millsaps’s 34, Barmore sent it back to Thompson, who tossed it to Curry. After a pass from Curry to Tomlin, Tomlin sent it to Hooten, who passed it to Maddux at Millsaps’s 31. Maddux threw a cross-field pass that almost caused the play to go dead before falling into Curry’s arms. Curry then darted through the open field for the touchdown to put Trinity over Millsaps 28-24 as time ran out.
“The offense really believed they could still win,” wrote Mohr. “The QB [Barmore] simply said this is going to happen, and I think the players actually felt somehow we could pull this off. After the first completion, which was diagrammed, everything else that happened was pure circumstantial. The 15 laterals were a lot of luck, good fortune and kids not giving in or up.”
Mohr wrote that everyone seemed to be in shock. The players on the field were too tired to celebrate, and Curry had his teammates piling on top of him.
“He about suffocated,” wrote Mohr.
After the game, the play was found almost everywhere—ESPN, YouTube. That evening ESPN’s SportsCenter featured the play in its top 10 plays in the No. 1 slot.
“It was pretty popular on ESPN for that fall plus it won the Pontiac Game Changing Play of the Year in college football, which garnered the school $100,000,” wrote Mohr. “And, we attended the ESPY awards in 2008 as it was a Play of the Year nominee.”
Today, it is remembered as one of the greatest plays in Trinity football history. However, Mohr explained that since Millsaps is no longer in the same conference, when the two teams play it is not as big as a rivalry even though the two teams did meet up this year with a 24-20 victory for Millsaps. But, since the players and coaches involved in that miracle play have moved on, many of today's players do not relate to the story as much.
“I know from my standpoint I seem to get it referenced several times a month it seems,” wrote Mohr. “If I introduce myself as the former coach at Trinity many will say, ‘Weren't you guys the ones who had that Lateral play?’”