Up 19 points with 7:28 left, Stephenson had it sewn up. But it turns out, Newton still had a run left in it.
It took quarterback Jordan Tarver’s 14-yard run on third-and-7 with fewer than two minutes left for the Jaguars to finally put away the Rams and win 22-16 at Halford Stadium.
Newton was vying for its first 5-1 start to a season since 1994 and second since 1964. Stephenson is 6-0 for the second consecutive year.
When Stephenson’s Willie Davis scampered into the end zone from 31 yards out, the extra point gave the Jags a 22-3 advantage, seemingly insurmountable against a Newton offense that had showed no real big-play capability.
One play into the ensuing Rams drive, Newton’s chances weren’t looking any better with a second-and-15 play from its own 15-yard line and the seven-minute mark approaching.
On that play, though, quarterback Tyree Williams looked left and heaved a long pass downfield to a wide open Akeem Hunt, who took the ball the rest of the way untouched for an 85-yard score.
It proved to be a momentum swing for the Rams, who have never beaten Stephenson in seven tries.
“I didn’t think they could come back until they scored on the long touchdown,” said Stephenson running back/kick returner Mike Davis, who finished with more than 200 all-purpose yards, including an 80-yard touchdown on the game’s opening kickoff. “So I had to come back in and do my thing.”
Willie Davis and backfield mate Mike Davis (no relation) ran strong all night, with both going past the 100-yard rushing mark. Willie Davis had a game-high 124 yards rushing, and Mike Davis added 113.
But on the drive after the Newton score, a facemask penalty stalled the drive, giving Newton the ball back with 4:48 left.
From their own 39, it took the Rams seven plays to get back into the end zone, cutting their deficit to just six after the extra point.
After the onside-kick try went out of bounds, Stephenson needed to kill 2:43 to seal the victory.
The Jags’ first two running plays totaled just 3 yards, and a Newton timeout left 1:57 on the clock. The Rams’ defense, keying on the Davises, bit on a Tarver play fake, and the senior ran a naked bootleg well into Newton territory for the first down.
Hunt had 169 yards of total offense to lead Newton’s comeback attempt.
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