Donovan Rose remembers it in detail, which isn't surprising. Most coaches recall losses more vividly than wins, particularly when a win was snatched away by forces outside their control.
Rose and Hampton University (0-3, 0-1 MEAC) host league rival Bethune-Cookman (2-2, 1-0 MEAC) 6 p.m. Saturday at Armstrong Stadium, almost exactly one year after a dramatic, last-second victory was overturned by the video replay official.
"Oh, man," Rose said Wednesday and rocked back in his desk chair, when asked his recollections of the end of the game. "I can remember the play just like it was yesterday."
To recap, the Pirates trailed Bethune-Cookman 35-31 and faced 4th-and-10 from the BCU 12, with four seconds remaining. HU quarterback David Legree passed down the middle to wide receiver Isaiah Thomas, who crossed the goal line for the apparent winning touchdown.
Thomas was a step-and-a-half into the end zone when he was tackled and spun around by a Wildcats' defender. As he went to the ground, the knee of a second defender appeared to knock the ball loose.
Amid the HU celebration, officials reviewed the play — the game was televised by ESPN, which provided multiple camera angles.
Several minutes later, Rose was informed that the touchdown had been overturned. Without access to instant replay, he and the Pirates left Daytona Beach, Fla., deflated. When he got home and cued up the video, he grew increasingly irritated.
"I still say he caught it," Rose said.
The explanation Rose received for the overturned touchdown was that an airborne receiver must control the ball all the way to the ground, and that Thomas did not. Never mind that Thomas wasn't airborne, that he crossed the goal line with possession of the ball, and that replays didn't provide irrefutable evidence to overturn the call on the field.
The MEAC reviewed the play and enlisted the heads of officials of both the ACC and Conference USA. Both upheld the replay official's decision.
Rose's memories are more detailed than his Bethune-Cookman counterpart, Brian Jenkins — publicly, at least.
"I don't have any recollection of it," Jenkins said earlier this week. "My main focus is on what's happening this year. If I think about what occurred last year, I'll miss what's going on this year. My main focus is preparing for the Hampton team that's going to play this year."
Jenkins claimed to have moved on, despite the peculiar circumstances and an apparent loss turning into a sudden victory.
"I'm a moment guy and that moment has passed," he said. "So therefore, I'm not concerned about that moment or sit and think about that moment any more. If I spend a lot of time on that moment, I won't be prepared for the moment that presents itself. No disrespect or anything, it's just not in my thought process or a concern of mine. My main thing is focusing on the team that we want to play this year."
Aggravated as Rose was, he used the end of that game as a teaching tool.
"It took something away from us," he said, "but I told the guys, you know what: We've got to learn from that. We shouldn't be in the position where we've got to wait until the last play. Don't be in a position where something outside your control determines whether you win or lose."
Rose, too, is focused on the here and now, on his winless team that's slowly gaining traction with a new offense and attempting to regroup on defense.
HU's Air Raid offense has improved each game, with quarterback Travis Champion throwing for 98 yards versus Tennessee Tech, 221 versus Old Dominion and 347 yards at Florida A&M.
On defense, however, the Pirates are ninth in the MEAC in scoring (43.3 ppg), and eighth in total defense (462.3 ypg), rushing (199.7) and passing (262.7). Opponents are converting nearly 50 percent (19 of 40) on third down.
"I would have thought we'd play better on defense," Rose said. "I know we played good teams, but when you go back and look at it, it's the basic stuff: alignment, assignment and execution. We went back to that."
Rose said that the Pirates had a good bye week. Practices were spirited, he said, the energy level was high. The team improved in all phases and showed no discouragement from an 0-3 start.
"This is a must-win situation," he said. "To me, there's no better situation. You're at home, you had a bye, you're rested. It's gut-check time.
"You will determine, nobody else is going to determine the outcome of this game but you and Bethune," he continued. "Whose will is strongest? That's it. There's no excuses, it's not going to be, my guys are young, and all that kind of mess. It's whose will, who wants it?"Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times