It was the play the symbolized the Saline-Monroe showdown and, ultimately, the final SEC standings.
It could have went to Saline. It could have went to Monroe.
But senior Brendan Murphy made sure it went to Saline.
Monroe’s Jalen Johnson had just scored on a 37-yard run and Saline’s lead was now just 14-6. The Hornets were looking to score and reassert themselves. On first-and-10 from the Monroe 29, Andrew Arbaugh lofted a pass to Brendan Murphy over the middle. Murphy was pretty well covered by Cole Culfaro and Cody Scsavnicki and even Hayes Brooks. Arbaugh delivered the perfect pass, in between the three Trojans, but still catchable for Murphy.
Murphy went up to get it. So did Scsavnicki.
“I reached up and got one of my hands on it but the Monroe guy was cradling it in and about to take it. I just ripped my other hand through,” Murphy said.
This was taking place, mid-air, around the four or five yard line.
They came down between the two and three yard line, when Murphy plunged the other hand into the mess. There were now four hands wrapped around the ball.
Murphy, meanwhile, kept plowing, pushing Scsavnicki and Culfaro back into the endzone. All three players went down, with Murphy and Scsavnicki still fighting for sole possession of the ball.
“We were fighting for it all the way down. I feel like when I hit the ground it was in my hands and he called it a touchdown, so I was right,” Murphy said. “It’s intense. It’s raining, too, so the ball is slippery. You’ve got to get good position, you’ve got to be aggressive and fighting for the ball and eventually you’ll get it.”
Once Murphy rolled over Scsavnicki, the smaller defensive back had no chance. Murphy ripped the ball from his clutch. The official gave the touchdown signal.
Coach Joe Palka credited his senior tight end for making a great play.
“Let’s be honest, players make plays. Murp was triple covered. That was a pivotal point in the game. To come up with the touchdown at the time, that’s just a ‘man’s play,’” Palka said. “Give the credit to the kids because they’re the ones who made the plays. Our gamebreakers and game changers came up big again.”
Saline was up 21-6 after JT Turner’s extra point kick. The Hornets went on to win 28-6 and capture their fifth straight SEC Red title.