Prattville, Ala.--In the game of games for a second-rounder in the Alabama playoffs, Arkansas State commitment Jalen Whitlow was the star as he broke the game open with a 79-yard touchdown run to open the 4th quarter and helped bleed the clock as Prattville defeated Daphne 13-3.
"Great games just don't come like that," Whitlow said. "They've got a great defense, so we just had to take it a beat at a time."
On the field last Friday there were three commitments to Alabama (Justin Thomas, Caleb Gulledge and Ryan Anderson), two to Florida State (Justin Shanks and Austin Gohlson), one to Auburn (T.J. Yeldon), one to Wake Forest (Laronji Vason), one to South Florida (Eric Lee) and five others committed to non-BCS schools in addition to Whitlow.
Notched in a defensive slugfest, Prattville held a 6-3 lead heading into the fourth quarter. That's when Whitlow all but sealed the deal for the Lions.
"I just saw a hole and I hit it," Whitlow said of his long touchdown run. "It was just a power to the left – a quarterback power. My receiver had a good block so I just found the hole and I hit it full speed."
Sometimes teams can be over-prepared for big games by running too many gimmicks and showing too many new looks. However, Prattville had the perfect amount of preparation for Daphne as head coach Jamey DuBose said the 79-yard run was a play that his team installed the day of the game.
"Jalen is a tremendous player," DuBose said. "You saw him throw a couple of balls. As this game got tighter at the end I knew that we didn't want to make some mistake offensively. On that one play he hit, that was the only time we ran that formation tonight. We felt like we could catch them on it.
"It was coming right out the third quarter going into the fourth," DuBose continued. "We had made the adjustment on the sideline, and they didn't adjust properly and we were able to hit the seam and go. We put that formation in today, in walk-throughs this morning and it paid off big for us.
"I think he now has 27 touchdowns throwing, catching and receiving" he added. "He's a very unselfish kid. You saw him play quarterback, wide receiver. He does anything I ask him to do. The player of my game tonight goes to Jalen Whitlow."
Whitlow had a big run in the first quarter against Daphne taking the hand-off from Justin Thomas on a sweep play from the slot position. Thomas and Whitlow, both fighting cramps, alternated at quarterback throughout the game. Ultimately Whitlow took almost all of the snaps in the fourth quarter.
"It was a big opportunity," Whitlow said. "We rotate anyway, so it's all good."
One of the biggest snaps was a fourth-and-two play as Prattville tried to drain the clock in its own territory. Thomas lost big yardage on a first down run, but consecutive Whitlow runs put the Lions in 4th down, but not far to go.
Whitlow powered through the talented Daphne defensive line for a first down.
"The coaches have faith in us, and the offensive line played good," Whitlow remarked. "We knew we could get it, so there was no doubt."
"I asked the kids and I asked my defensive staff," DuBose said. "The defensive staff told me, ‘Do it, we've got it.' The offensive line said, ‘Coach, we'll get it.' Yeah, we got it by about a nose. I thought that was a big call. I'm not going to take credit for it. I jumped on the back of my players."
With all of the talented players on hand, it was Whitlow who made the difference in the game. Not bad for a player who has been slow to attract major college attention.
Asked what Auburn and Florida State coaches are saying to Whitlow, he responded, "They just want me to go up and see some games. I went to the Auburn/Florida game and that was fun. I really haven't talked to them. They've talked to my coaches and my coaches give me information. They've just said to keep playing hard. My coaches are telling me that it's going to come. Just keep playing.
"I talked to Trooper Taylor a little bit," Whitlow added. "He came to our (Robert E.) Lee game."
But if Whitlow got an offer from a big-time school, "I would have to take a seriously look at Auburn or Florida State," he said.
DuBose said that it's a surprise that Whitlow isn't getting major attention from big-time schools.
"Very much so does because you're talking about a kid that's a high 4.4 runner. You're talking about a kid that can do a lot of things. You all see how big he is. The kid could go play safety if I asked him to play safety. He's a physical kid, he's a great athlete, and let me tell you something – he can throw the football. Unfortunately you didn't get to see a lot of that tonight. He can make some throws. We asked him to carry it tonight and he did."
"They're doing good," Whitlow said. "I like their offense. Their coaches are cool, and they run the perfect offense. It's basically our offense."