C.J. Morgan is going to be honest with you.
Forty-eight hours after one of the weirdest plays you’ll ever see in college football, Mississippi State's redshirt freshman isn’t going to play the part of the hero. Replaying the sequences of events that led to his defense setting up a third-and-93 against Louisiana Tech on Saturday, he admits, “Really, I was just trying to be greedy.”
You see, Morgan, who lined up to spy the running back on that fateful second-and-goal from his own 6-yard line, could have easily just fallen on the football when the snap sailed over the quarterback’s head. He knows that. It would have been a nice play for the second-string defensive back to make. But for his first career turnover, his mind was elsewhere.
As soon as he saw the ball loose, he said his eyes “were bigger than I don’t know what.” He thought, “Oh yeah, this is my shot right here. I’m gonna go score. This thing is calling my name.”
“Here’s my thought process,” Morgan said, giggling the entire time. “I have one perfect chance to scoop it up, and if I don’t get it, I’m gonna kick it, I’m going to keep kicking it.”
And kick it he did. He booted the ball not once, but twice.
“I saw no one else got it,” he said. “So I said, ‘Well, I missed on the first try, I guess I know what I’m about to do -- just keep on kicking it.’”
He added: “I wanted to score a touchdown myself, but at the same time I knew it would look good for the whole defense if we could get them backed up as far as we could because we were on the 6-yard line.”
So Morgan wants us to believe that he had this all planned out? Not at all, as it turns out.
“It was a failed opportunity turned into something good,” he said.
Good for Willie Gay Jr., that is.
The freshman linebacker was the last one to miss picking up the fumble, but he also happened to be touching Louisiana Tech wideout Cee Jay Powell, rolling over him as Powell recovered the football.
“I got a nice tackle for loss,” Gay said.
But like his teammate, he doesn’t exactly place himself in a hero’s light, either.
“So, OK, I was running,” Gay said, “but I wasn’t running as fast because my first thought was, ‘OK, he’s going to recover it or one of my guys are going to jump on it.’ So as he jumped on it, it kept rolling. My guy jumped on it, it kept rolling. All I know was, ‘Oh, I gotta run a little faster now.’”
Long story short, he said, “I guess that’s what I get for thinking. I should have been running in the first place.”
Suffice to say that he knows that now.
Gay, who is from Starkville, estimates that he has seen the replay of the cartoonish play 100 times now.
“On film, on ESPN, on Twitter,” he said.
Morgan, who grew up less than 30 minutes from Louisiana Tech, said his social media blew up after the game. Friends, family, teammates, even old teachers from middle school all had the same questions.
“What happened?” he said. “You can’t pick up a ball?”
Mississippi State defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who has been known to light a fire or two under his players, approached Morgan on the sideline after the play.
Thankfully, he was in a joking mood, ahead 57-14, with the game no longer in doubt.
“At the end of the day,” Grantham said, “we want the ball. So you should’ve just fallen on that.”
Morgan responded: “Yes, sir. You’re right. I wanted that touchdown, though.”