JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- This is one of those arguments that will last for decades.
Twenty, 30, 40 years from now, Jacksonville University defensive lineman Justin Horton and linebacker DJ Howard will be going back and forth about who really scored that winning touchdown at Delaware.
What they do agree to is the playful bickering began on Sept. 4, 2015, with 2:09 to play in the game the Dolphins won, 20-14.
And, they agree that with a 2nd and 8 from his own 5 yard-line, Delaware quarterback Joe Walker dropped to pass, was hit by JU's Maroa White and TJ Jenkins causing Walker to fumble when the ball flew from his hand and sailed into the end zone.
From there … well, that's where the controversy starts.
Horton fell on the ball; one referee quickly raised his hands for a touchdown about the same time the ball squirted from Horton's grasp. The next thing you know, there's Howard with the ball and a second referee now raising his hands.
The action has been fodder for much good-natured, laughter-filled, discussion between the two close friends.
"We try to keep it (conversation about the play) dead because we know it's going to escalate pretty quickly, hahahahaha,'' Horton, from Clermont, Fla., said. "DJ has his arguments and I have mine… BUT … at the end of the day he knows who the score really belongs to.''
Here's Howard's version of the play:
"We were in cover 2 so I am supposed to drop back in the middle,'' he said. "Of course, that takes me out of the play, but once I saw the ball in the air in a fumble motion that's when I ran to the line. I saw Horton jump on the ball … BUT … I also saw him push the ball out which meant he had no possession of the ball, therefore, it was still moving around. I saw other players still trying to jump on it so that's why I jumped on it which made me get the touchdown.''
Howard, from Daytona Beach, Fla., bases much of his argument on what he saw from the referees.
"One referee had his hands up for touchdown because he saw somebody in our color jersey had the ball,'' he said. "… BUT … the other referee, who was closest to me had his hands down and when I got up with the ball that's when he put his hands up (in the touchdown signal). One referee had his hands up, one had his hands down.''
As Howard describes the play, he laughs at the recall and what has ensued since.
"We keep discussing it and we keep going back to the video,'' he said. "One view shows me with the ball and another view shows him on the ball … BUT … in that view you can see the ball coming out and me jumping on it. So, we say it's both of ours, but it's mine. I scored, but just to make him happy I say it's both of ours.''
Horton's not exactly buying that version …
"I was stunting to the inside and I saw Maroa and TJ hit their quarterback and I saw the ball pop up in the air,'' he said. "And since I wasn't going to get the sack, I figured I might as well get the ball … which happened to be in the end zone.
''I know when I jumped on it I heard a whole bunch of noise and I looked up and saw the ref with his hands up so I figured I scored. I knew I dropped the ball, but the only that matters is that when I had it his hands were up and that means touchdown. That's my take.''
Could the ref have raised his hands prematurely?
"He might have but that's the thing about having people as refs, discretion is part of the call,'' Horton said. "As far as I know, his hands went up when I had the ball so it's on my stat sheet.''
Defensive coordinator Jerry Odom believes Horton gets the nod.
"I don't care who scored it as long as we scored,'' Odom said. "They've been arguing about it since that day but you have to give it to Justin because that's when the referee raised his hands. Did he secure the ball like I like it? Not really; one of their guys tried to pull it from him and then (JU defensive lineman) Josh (Gilmore) kicked it while celebrating and that's how DJ wound up with it. While I have to give it to Justin, it's good DJ was Johnny on the spot to make sure. I'm glad he did jump on it.''
And, say, 30 years from now, will the controversy simmer?
"Probably,'' Horton said. "But at that point I don't think anybody is really going to have any recollection of what happened. The only thing that's going to stand is that stat sheet and it will still be on paper. Everybody's going to know that.''
And the official stats say?
"I believe it says me,'' Horton says with an air of confidence about his first collegiate touchdown. "I've checked a few times just to make sure so I can throw it in DJ's face, hahahahaha.''