The creator of many a dazzling punt and kick return, Southern’s Virgil Williams has waited a long time to break the big one. According to the Southwestern Athletic Conference, his wait is over.
On Tuesday afternoon, the league’s official statistics showed Williams as recording a 50-yard punt return touchdown Saturday against Alcorn State, and while the play in question was a remarkable display of athleticism, Williams knows the truth.
“It’s recorded in the SWAC that I have one, so I’ll take it,” he said. “I want to get another one, because deep down inside I know what really happened. I’ll take it, but I want to definitely get another one.”
What really happened was that Williams took a return into the open field and got pulled down by a defender, but he kept his knees off the ground by spinning and using his forearm and elbow to brace himself.
Referees didn’t spot it or blow the whistle, and Williams took off toward the end zone before fumbling and seeing teammate D’Andre Woodland recover it for a TD. A replay showed Woodland’s elbow to be out of bounds as he snatched the ball.
So on a play where Williams was down and fumbled, and where his teammate recovered for a touchdown that wasn’t really a touchdown, Williams was credited with a score.
That doesn’t quite satisfy his goal of a return TD, but as part of a unit that is thriving under special teams coach Marty Biagi, he’s confident another chance will come.
“Coach Biagi, he really pushes special teams,” Williams said. “He brought a new attitude in here to special teams, and everybody is buying into his vision. I credit all the other 10 guys blocking for me, because they never quit.”
Williams’ skill as a returner also has raised questions about whether he could see an increased role beyond special teams and cornerback — perhaps as a receiver, running back or in a Wildcat formation — and interim head coach Dawson Odums hinted that may be coming.
“If the season was to end right now, there’s no doubt that Virgil Williams would be our most valuable player,” Odums said. “He’s an electrifying individual, and any time we need a big play, he seems to be the guy that’s making it right now.
“I’m excited to have him on defense, and I think he’s a guy that we can exploit his talents even more, and we talk about those things as a staff. Virgil right now is one of the top returners in the country, and we’re going to continue to keep him back there returning kicks for us and playing defensive back.”
Southern has deemed Saturday’s homecoming game against Texas Southern as “Unite in White,” where fans are asked to show up in that color. The Jaguars had planned to do the same with their jerseys, but since home teams usually wear a dark color, they had to clear it with the Tigers.
According to SU media relations director Chris Jones, the two schools’ equipment directors had reached an agreement, but the idea was shot down by TSU coach Darrell Asberry, a Baton Rouge native who played at Southern Lab and Jackson State.
“We did receive word (Monday) that our request for the team to wear all white for homecoming was denied, so we think that 20,000-plus will do just fine,” Jones said.
Instead, Jones said the team would likely wear Columbia blue.
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