At first, it was looking like how the last two Crosstown Classic games at William L. Buford Stadium was going, with Oxford scoring at will and leading 23-7 in the second quarter.
Then a change in mindset on the defensive side of the ball, along with a balanced offensive attack made a big difference.
“We went from playing not to lose to ‘let’s go win this thing’,” Lafayette coach Michael Fair said about his defense holding the Oxford Chargers scoreless for the last 30-plus minutes of the contest, coming back from a 16-point deficit by scoring 27 unanswered points – exactly in the same manner on how Oxford won last year – and the Lafayette Commodores defeated Oxford 34-23.
In last year’s contest, Lafayette (3-1 overall) had led 22-6 before allowing 27 straight points to lose 33-22. This time the script was flipped as Oxford (2-2) had a 23-7 lead with 6:42 left in the second quarter, but failed to score again as the Chargers allowed 27 straight points.
Early on, it did not appear Oxford would be stopped, scoring on their first four possessions. Michael Harvey completed a 46-yard pass to Cashe Shows before being stopped at the Lafayette 8, close enough for William Wilkinson to boot through a 25-yard field goal to take an early 3-0 lead with 9:26 left in the opening quarter.
After forcing a Lafayette punt, Trip Maxwell led the Chargers on a six play, 75-yard drive capped with a Maxwell pass to Jack Harper from 19 yards out to give Oxford a 9-0 lead with 4:33 left in the first quarter.
Lafayette countered with a 12-play, 80-yard drive with Jayden Reed capping the drive with a three yard run, the first of his three touchdowns on the night, to cut the lead down to 9-7 on the opening play of the second quarter.
Oxford responded with a Harvey-led drive of 10 plays extending 63 yards and ending with a Roman Gregory rushing touchdown from three yards out to extend Oxford’s lead to 16-7 with 9:14 left in the second quarter.
After a Lafayette three-and-out, Oxford used a big Ashton Shorter punt return to give Oxford a short field. Maxwell needed two plays to cover 39 yards, aided with a pass interference call, and Tracy Harris capped the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run to give Oxford the 23-7 lead with 6:42 left in the half.
Reed then went to work, using a big 52-yard run to the Oxford 1 and then Trikyus Woodall punched it in on the next play to quickly bring the lead back down to nine at 23-14 with 5:28 left until halftime. Reed had 64 of the 65 yards on the drive that lasted four plays.
Oxford was then stopped for the first time of the night and turned the ball over on downs at Lafayette’s 45. Charlie Fair then found Kylen Vaughn down the Commodore sideline for 55 yards and cut the lead to just two at 23-21 with 3:40 left in the second quarter.
After a 35-point second quarter, the game turned into a much more defensive stance, more towards what the game what many people thought it was going to be entering the contest, until early in the fourth quarter where the Chargers muffed a punt at their own 48 and Lafayette recovered. Reed capped the five play drive with a nine yard run to give Lafayette its first lead of the night at 27-23 with 9:40 left in the contest after the failed two-point conversion.
Oxford was forced to punt in Lafayette territory on their next possession, then Lafayette was able to drive the football down to Oxford’s 13, but the field goal attempt hit the left upright, giving Oxford one last chance, but Maxwell threw four incompletions to turn the ball over on downs. Lafayette, having to run a play since they couldn’t kneel the clock out, had Reed run the ball and Oxford’s defense intentionally allowed him to score and go up 34-23 with 1:50 left on the clock in order to get the ball back.
Harvey was able to lead the offense down to Lafayette’s 44 on the ensuing drive before throwing an interception to seal the contest.
Reed finished with 35 carries for 199 yards and three touchdowns to lead Lafayette. Fair was 10-for-19 for 221 yards and a score. Vaughn had five receptions for 127 yards, all in the first half, to lead the Commodore receivers.
Harvey and Maxwell combined to continue their passing woes, going 14-for-37 for 160 yards with a touchdown from Maxwell and an interception from Harvey. The duo combined to go 4-for-16 in the second half for just 23 yards. Gregory led Oxford on the ground with 13 carries for 57 yards and a touchdown.