Story and Photos By Valerie Fields Hill
Texas Metro News
ARLINGTON – The inaugural Arlington Football Showdown between historically Black Texas Southern University (Houston) and Southern University (Baton Rouge) in Choctaw Stadium (formerly Globe Life) Saturday ended in a shocker: The Tigers clawed their way to a rare win sending the highly-favored Jaguars prowling back to the Bayou State.
TSU won the face-off 35-31 before a crowd of 15,736 fans in one of the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s newest “classic” games. Southern was expected to win: The Jags defeated the Tigers 51-23 in March. That meetup was played in the spring in Houston’s BBVA Stadium because the SWAC delayed Fall 2020 conference play due to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.
“We feel like this is the new TSU,” Texas Southern Head Coach Clarence McKinney said after the game during a post-game news conference.
“I tip my hat to our players because I’ve asked them to do a lot of tough things,” he said, adding that his athletes were encouraged to continue playing despite a string of humiliating defeats.
“I couldn’t have been more proud of this team,” McKinney tweeted after Saturday night’s win, adding that the victory was “a total team effort and great win for the program.”
Meanwhile, Southern’s Head Coach Jason Rollins said simply: “We need to play better.”
The game ended after a controversial referee’s call leading to Southern, who was ahead in the final quarter, failing to achieve a first down on a critical play.
Initially, game officials determined the Jags had achieved the down, but after TSU challenged the call, the officials reviewed the play, then changed their decision.
The decision drew heavy boos from the crowd of largely Jaguar fans, many of whom had driven to Arlington from Baton Rouge and were spending the entire weekend in Texas with family members and friends who live in North Texas.
Rollins said he had never experienced referees’ reversal on a decision.
“That was a first,” he said during the post-game media conference.
When asked what he believed led to the reversal of the first down, Rollins said “They said it was a first down. Then, they went to review it again. They said that the spot wasn’t correct. So, they reviewed it for another spot.
“So, it was reviewed twice,” he said. “So, once it was a first down.”
On the second review, he said, “it wasn’t.”
The decision left Southern’s leading players, Marquis McClain, a 6’3” 210-pound wide-receiver from Crestview, Fla., and Johnathan Bishop, a 6’2” 290-pound senior offensive lineman appearing defeated in the post-game news conference.
When asked by reporters how they felt about the officials’ decision, Bishop said “The game is over. So all you can do is focus on the next game.”
McClain sidestepped the question, answering simply “Go, Jags.”
Regarding his role in challenging the first down, TSU’s McKinney said “I feel like I owed it to our players to challenge that spot.”
Next Saturday at 2 p.m., the Jags, ranked fourth in the SWAC Western Division, face University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff while TSU faces Grambling State.