But there were no explosions from the Falcons. Only implosions.
Oxford jumped out to a four-touchdown first-half lead and rolled to the 35-7 non-region win.
“This was the worst offensive game we’ve played this year,” said Florence coach Jamey DuBose, whose team was averaging 37.75 points per game entering the contest. “We had some bad snaps and we just didn’t handle it well.”
Those bad snaps came early. Florence fumbled away its first drive. The Falcons fumbled on their second drive, too.
Florence recovered the latter, but in reality, the Falcons never really recovered.
The Yellow Jackets made quick work of the early gift recovered by Trent Simpson. Oxford went tried-and-true as Racean Thomas capped the short drive with a 16-yard touchdown run.
The Jackets struck quick on their second drive, but a 65-yard reception by Desmon Owens was called back on a penalty. Nine plays later, the Jackets got the points back with quarterback Ty Webber keeping the Falcons’ defense honest. With the defense focused on stopping Thomas, a 15-yard keeper by Webber keyed the drive.
“He’s had some good games,” Webber said of his tailback. “People have to concentrate on him. But we showed them tonight we’ve got other people that can get the job done, too.”
Webber finished with 12 carries for 80 yards and a 1-yard touchdown run to cap the Yellow Jackets’ second drive.
Thomas didn’t post his usual gaudy numbers, but he didn’t have to. The only thing that was gaudy were his highlights.
The Jackets’ defense held Florence to minus-1 yards on the ensuing drive to quickly get the ball back. On Oxford’s first play, nearly the entire defense keyed on Thomas to stop the option play. Webber tucked the ball and netted 18 yards.
On the final play of the drive, though, the Falcons didn’t have nearly enough people in Thomas’ neighborhood.
Thomas slipped out of the backfield into the left flat where Webber found him one-on-one. Thomas hauled in the pass and then olé’d the single defender and raced to the left pylon. He capped the 31-yard reception with a fierce stiffarm and added the two-point conversion to put Oxford on top 21-0.
Thomas confirmed that he’ll visit Tuscaloosa today for the contest between top-ranked Alabama and Ole Miss. The junior shied away from Internet rumors that he’ll use the visit to commit to the Crimson Tide.
“We’ll just have to see how the visit goes,” he said.
Urged for the odds that he’ll commit today, he just smiled and said, “I’d rather not deal in percentages.”
Percentages can be tricky things and few would have guessed Florence’s turnover percentage coming into this game. And while the turnovers were costly, it was the timing that swung the game so decidedly in Oxford’s favor.
While the first fumble looked to have rattled the Falcons’ offense, it was a much later turnover that did the most damage.
Driving to cut the deficit to two touchdowns, Josh Montgomery stopped the 17-play drive by scooping a fumble and returning it 84 yards for Oxford’s final touchdown. To top it off, 33 seconds later Montgomery intercepted a Kendrick Doss pass to ice the game with 6:21 remaining.
Montgomery admitted to breaking the cardinal rule of returns — never look behind you. But when he did, things were as perfect as they’d gone for Oxford all night.
“Everybody was blocked,” he said. “There was no doubt I was going to score.”
Bran Strickland is the Assistant Managing Editor for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3590 or follow him on Twitter @bran_strickland.