With 45 seconds left on the scoreboard clock at Johnson Hagood Stadium, The Citadel faced a desperate situation.
It was third down and nine at the Chattanooga 11-yard line, with the Bulldogs trailing by a touchdown.
Forced out of the pocket, quarterback Jaylan Adams scrambled to his right, darting past a teammate throwing a block. As a Moc defender rushed up to tackle Adams, the QB dropped his right shoulder and slung a sidearm dart to receiver Raleigh Webb in the front corner of the end zone to tie the game with 41 seconds to go.
The throw reminded coach Brent Thompson of a certain NFL quarterback.
"It was almost Patrick Mahomes-like," Thompson said. "He's throwing sidearm and changes his arm slot, puts it in a perfect spot. I don't think I've ever seen him do that in practice, but Jaylan can do that kind of stuff."
TOUCHDOWN CITADELJaylan Adams to Raleigh Webb pic.twitter.com/a0lkjvgfas— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) March 6, 2021
Adams ran for a 2-yard touchdown in overtime to give the Bulldogs the lead in a game they trailed by 14-0, but Chattanooga escaped with a 25-24 win on March 6.
Nevertheless, the game was another step in the football education of The Citadel's new starting quarterback, a 5-10, 165-pound redshirt sophomore who will make his third career start on March 13 at Western Carolina.
Adams played quarterback at Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tenn., where Heisman Trophy winner and coaching legend Steve Spurrier played QB. He was moved to defensive back at The Citadel before Thompson switched him back to offense last spring.
"Jaylan has come a long way at the quarterback position," Thompson said. "He did a much better job of taking care of the ball, and did a much better job of distributing the ball. He got the ball where it needed to be, and that was what the defense gave us. So we're pleased with his progress."
In two games this spring, Adams has rushed for 227 yards and three touchdowns, including 144 yards and a score in a 42-28 loss at Mercer on Feb. 27. He's completed 12 of 21 passes for 102 yards and two scores with one interception.
With Adams at the helm this spring, the Bulldogs are averaging 26 points and 270.5 rushing yards per game, ranking third and first in the Southern Conference in league games.
The Citadel had three turnovers in the loss at Mercer, all linked to Adams. He and slotback Cooper Wallace mishandled two option pitches, and Adams was picked off once. Against Chattanooga, the Bulldogs ran 72 plays without a fumble or a turnover.
Both of Adams' TD passes have been to Webb, the 6-2, 213-pounder who now ranks second in Citadel history with 18 TD grabs. But Thompson said there is more to be had in the Adams-Webb connection.
Webb came open twice for potential big plays against Chattanooga. He got past Moc defenders on a deep route in the third quarter, but Adams left the ball a little short. There was contact with a Moc defender, but no call was made.
And on that game-tying drive, Webb was open again on a corner route on fourth and 7, but Adams was forced to scramble and gained nine yards for a first down. Three plays later, he hit Webb for the tying touchdown.
"Raleigh is doing a great job of bringing Jaylan along to where he needs to be," Thompson said. "The one thing we are missing when it comes to Jaylan and Raleigh, compared to Brandon Rainey and Raleigh, was that Brandon had a sense of when to get the ball out. He knew when Raleigh had a chance to beat his defender.
"Jaylan doesn't have that yet. He's waiting for Raleigh to get open. If we can have a little bit more anticipation with that, which I think comes with time, I think we'll start to connect on more of those. We had two opportunities when Raleigh was open but we couldn't get it to him because the protection broke down or we held the ball too long."
Thompson would also like to see The Citadel get off to faster starts, on offense and defense.
Both Mercer and Chattanooga scored on 75-yard TD passes on their first plays from scrimmage, and the Bulldogs have trailed by a combined 45-7 at the half in the first two games, outscoring their foes by 38-14 in the second half.
"We need to start leaning on people earlier in the game," he said. "We can't wait until the third quarter. We've got to start to wear them down earlier. This offense can be tough to handle late in the game, but we've got to get to that point earlier so we can score some points."
Like The Citadel, Western Carolina went 0-4 in the fall and has lost its first three SoCon spring games, by 35-7 to Furman, 55-27 to Samford and 30-7 to VMI.
Ryan Glover, a 6-2, 210-pound transfer from Penn, is the Catamounts' new starting QB and has hit 59.2 percent of his passes for 491 yards with two TDs and three interceptions in three league games. Senior Donnavan Spencer (5-10, 190 pounds) is the top rusher with 193 yards and one TD in three games.