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Sunday Morning Quarterback

Sunday Morning Quarterback

Friday, July 07, 2006

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Nice work today from Jackson Clarion Ledger columnist Rick Cleveland on the psyche of Jasper Faulk, the unfortunate Southern Miss DB captured forever as "the guy" covering Tyrone Prothro on the latter's completely impossible, superhuman catch against USM last September, as the play gets scads of air time during the WWL's ESPY promotions and sells thousands of paintings in Alabama:

Southern Miss cornerback Jasper Faulk is a man of few words. Ask him how many times he's seen a video replay of Tyrone Prothro's absurdly acrobatic catch from last September, and he replies, "Too many."

But Faulk knows he will see it again soon.

"Probably thousands more times," Faulk says.

If he watches ESPN's ESPY Awards show July 16, he'll see it again and again, probably in agonizingly slow slo-motion. Prothro's catch is one of five finalists for play of the year in sports.

For Faulk, it is like reliving a nightmare over and over and over and over. And over and over and over, 10,000 times - and then some more.

The guy in the crimson jersey, wearing No. 4, leaps into the air and reaches behind the back of the guy in the white jersey, No. 21. Somehow or another, the guy in crimson latches onto the ball and hangs on as they both tumble into the end zone.
That's when Prothro made the best catch these eyes have ever seen, mainly because there's no way Prothro could have seen the ball into his hands. Faulk's head was in his way. When the two players landed an official first ruled incomplete and then another ruled it complete. The first official can be excused for his mistake. It looked impossible.

Says Faulk, "I really thought he had dropped it when we hit the ground. I don't see how he held on."

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Cleveland is not exclusively a Southern Miss guy - he writes on whatever sports topic he likes, keeping it in-state 99 percent of the time - but he does rightly dwell on a facet of "The Catch" only a USM sympathizer is going to remember: it completely turned a game the Eagles were firmly controlling.

Prothro had burned John Eubanks on the first play of the game and Alabama had gone up 10-0 very quickly on its opening possessions, but Brodie Croyle was intercepted for a touchdown on the Tide's third possession, Faulk made a nice punt return to set up a short, easy score moments later and USM scored a third touchdown to go up 21-10. And Alabama had done nothing positive whatsoever since Croyle's interception.

The most frustrating element of Prothro's catch was that it came on a hopeless fourth-and-18 play with less than a minute to go before the half, when Croyle was under pressure and just heaving up a no-shot prayer from about midfield. The terrible luck combined with the mere mortal fan's sense of disbelief as he pressed the ball against Prothro's helmet to form the most sickening possible feeling of exhiliration. 'Bama scored the next play to pull to 21-17, pretty much dominated the second half and won 30-21.

It's tough to say, because the Tide in the second half did to USM what it always does to USM (that is, establish obvious physical dominance with superior athletes, wearing them down even without running away on the scoreboard), but it's very tempting to believe that, sans Prothro's catch, Southern Miss hangs on to that 11-point halftime lead and pulls another nice little road upset to open the season. It's nice to think that - We had 'em! - and plausible enough, at least for USM defensive coordinator Jay Hopson:

"If I coach another 50 years, I'll never see another catch like that one," says USM defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Jay Hopson. "If you saw it, you'll never forget it as long as you live. In my case, I'll never forget it no matter how hard I try. I'm telling you if he doesn't make that catch, Alabama is in for a long night. That play turned the game around."


As for Faulk, he's a senior projected as a starting corner this season after a couple as a backup safety and special teams guy. SMQ, personally, would rather see a young guy win the job.

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7:27 AM

I remember good and well that Southern Miss was in charge of that game. Alabama's 10 point lead evaporated in no time flat and I hurled a litany of abuse at my television after Southern Miss' first score that was apparently heard in Tuscaloosa (I was living in Florida at the time.)

It certainly made for a memorable last meeting between our teams (at least the last meeting on the long-term contract.)

I've always had respect for Southern Miss and I want to see them do well even though they played my two teams year in and year out (Alabama and UAB.)

I'm going to the Southern Miss v. Marshall game in November. If you're going, I'll have to say hello.
Bad as that catch was for the Golden Eagles, it doesn't hold a candle to the 4th-and-20-or-so completion that gave Alabama their first lead of the game with mere seconds left in '95.

If Southern Miss football were a TV commercial, it would be the Gatorade "Precision" ad with all the classic sports moments plays modified to where the athletes DON'T make the big play.
Toderick Freaking Malone, who beat Pat Surtain. Thanks for the memory.
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