Left for dead in the CIAA South Division race three games into the season, Winston-Salem State won the CIAA Conference Championship game for the third time in five years in dramatic fashion Saturday in Durham, N.C.
Will Johnson kicked a 23-yard field goal as time expired for the winning points as the Rams defeated North Division champ Bowie State 17-4. The Rams (6-5) drove 75 yards in 15 plays to get in position for Johnson’s kick.
Winston-Salem started the season 0-3 and was giving little chance of reaching the championship game let alone winning it. But the Rams turned things around won five of their final seven games.
“A lot of people were down and out on us with the way we started the season,” said second-year Winston-Salem State coach Kienus Boulware,”and we were in a crucial point late in the season. So the mission was to continue to love these guys and share the blame and let them know we were as much a part of this thing as they were. But the key was not to mess it up and stay focused; it paid off for us in the end.”
Bowie State (9-2) took a 14-0 lead in the second period. Quarterback Nyema Washington scored on a one-yard run, culminating a 21-play, 86-yard drive that began in the first period and consumed 6 minutes, 38 seconds. Washington tossed a 64-yard touchdown pass to Kerrick Pollard with 1:19 left in the half for a 14-0 Bulldogs lead.
Winston-Salem struck quickly to cut the Bulldogs’ lead in half before the half ended. Quarterback Rod Tinsley connected with Rashaan Williams on passes of 44 and 21 yards after the Rams took possession of the ball their 25-yard line. Tyree Massey scored on a four-yard run eight seconds before the half ended, swinging momentum to the Rams.
After a scoreless third quarter, Winston-Salem tied the score at 14-all on Tinsley’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wilkins with 8:38 left in the game. Bowie State took possession on its 14 following the ensuing kickoff. The Bulldogs drove to their 46-yard line before they punted, setting the stage for Johnson’s field goal that gave Winston-Salem its 11th conference title and first under Boulware.
Bowie State suffered its first loss to a CIAA opponent after posting a 7-0 conference record. The Bulldogs entered the game ranked second in the NCAA Division II Super Region One.
Miles 20, Albany State 7 – The Golden Bears avenged a regular season loss to the Golden Rams with a convincing victory in the SIAC Championship Game in Montgomery, Ala. Stefan Whitehead returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for Miles (7-4), setting up a 20-yard field goal by Nick Christiansen, and Albany State (6-4) never recovered.
The Golden Bears built a commanding 17-0 halftime lead thanks to a pair of touchdown runs by Jamarcus Nance, Miles’ MVP in the game after rushing for 140 yards to go with his two scores. Albany State flubbed a pair of opportunities to stay close to Miles in the first half. The Rams missed a 24-yard field goal early in the second quarter.
Later in the period, they drove to Miles’ 29, but quarterback Caleb Edmonds overthrew receiver Jessie Atkins on fourth-and-eighth and the turned the ball over on downs. Albany State finally scored in the third quarter when Edmonds connected with Thomas Smith on a 14-yard touchdown at the 2:41 mark. Christiansen added a 30-yard field goal in the fourth quarter for Miles’ final points. The loss was the second straight in the conference championship game for the Rams, who lost to Tuskegee last year, and it ended their five-game winning streak.
Albany State began the season 1-3 but rebounded to win the East Division title for the third time in four years. Miles also started the season slowly, losing its first three games and four of its first five. The Bears ended the season with a five-game winning. Their last loss was to Albany State 29-16 on Oct. 3.
Grambling State 49, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 31 – Quarterback Johnathan Williams passed for 339 yards and four touchdowns as the Tigers clinched the SWAC West Division championship with a road victory. Grambling (8-2, 8-0 SWAC) grabbed a 35-3 third-quarter lead with Williams throwing a pair of touchdown passes to Verlan Hunter and one each to Chad Williams and Martez Carter and Jateri Pouncey returning an interception 22 yards for a score.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1-9, 0-8 SWAC) threatened to get back in the game midway through the third quarter when quarterback Brandon Duncan scored on a one-yard run and threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Rowland in less than a minute to make the score 35-17. However, the G-Men regained command of the game when Chester Rogers scored on a four-yard run at the five minute mark in the quarter and cruised to their eighth straight win. Duncan threw for 459 yards and three touchdowns in a losing effort. Grambling intercepted Duncan three times and had three fumble recoveries, sending the Golden Lions to their eighth straight loss.
North Carolina A&T 27, Delaware State 6 – The Aggies clinched a share of the MEAC title with a home victory against the winless Hornets. Freshman quarterback Kylil Carter threw two touchdown passes and ran for score North Carolina A&T (9-1, 7-0 MEAC) extended its winning streak to eight straight games. Junior running back Tarik Cohen had 132 rushing yards, giving him a school record 3,624 for his career. Mike Mayhew held the previous record with 3,521.
North Carolina A&T can win the conference title outright and a berth in the inaugural Celebration Bowl against the SWAC champion Dec. 19 in Atlanta with a victory against North Carolina Central Saturday. North Carolina A&T went ahead 13-0. Brycen Alleyne scored on a four-yard run for Delaware State (0-10, 0-7 MEAC) to make the score 13-6. But Tony McRae returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. Carter scored on a one-yard run with six minutes left in the game to seal the victory.