For the second consecutive season, the Winston-Salem State University Rams are Super Region One Champs. Kameron Smith’s pass to Ricky Rozier with 3:51 remaining put WSSU on top, but it was Casey Davenport’s pressure and pass breakup that sealed the Rams win in the final seconds.
On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, the epic battle between the WSSU Rams high octane offense versus the nation’s number one ranked defense of Indiana (Pa) lived up to the billing and more.
IUP took the opening kickoff and marched straight down the field, but their 10 play drive ended when the Rams’ Malcolm Rowe blocked the field goal attempt.
But the Rams first possession was a quick one, as Anthony Carrothers led the Rams on a three and out, and Landen Thayer was brought in to punt.
This would be the theme for the first 15 minutes, as neither team could move the football with consistency, and the first quarter ended with a 0-0 tie.
Towards the end of the quarter, however, the Rams’ were able to finally get something going, as Anthony Carrothers connected on a 62 yard screen pass to Jameze Massey, who got the ball deep in Crimson Hawk territory. A few plays later on third and goal, Ricky Rozier would plow across the goal line to give WSSU the early advantage.
WSSU would get the ball back quickly, as Justin Wilkerson, tipped a Mike Box pass at the line of scrimmage and snagged it to give it back to the Rams.
On the first play after the turnover, Anthony Carrothers would find Jahuann Butler for a 48 yard gain, down to the Crimson Hawks’ 11 yard line. Winston-Salem State would get the ball inside the three yard line on another Carrothers to Butler pass and catch, but he drive would stall and force a field goal attempt. Landen Thayer’s field goal would be blocked and the Rams turned the ball over to IUP.
After trading punts, the IUP Crimson Hawks would go 50 yards in three plays, and Mike Box would find Terrill Barnes for a 36 yard score with 17 second before halftime, where WSSU missed three tackles on the play.
On the ensuing possession for WSSU, the Rams were able to push the ball forward towards mid field, when on the last play of the half, Anthony Carrothers would roll out and avoid a Crimson Hawk defender, before unleashing a Hail Mary pass, that would find 6-6 backup receiver, Kenneth Patterson who would haul it in and fall across the goal line for a score with no time on the clock. Landen Thayer’s PAT would give WSSU a 14-7 halftime lead.
Winston-Salem State would get the ball back to start the second half, and marched right down the field on 12 plays, covering 50 yards before the drive would stall. Landen Thayer would come on for a 40 yard field goal, but it sailed wide left.
IUP would not be able to move the ball, and after a three and out, was forced to punt. But the Crimson Hawk punter could only come up with a 16 yard punt on the play.
But on the next play, Anthony Carrothers would be picked off and returned 38 yards by Johnny Franco. Eight plays and 44 yards later, IUP connected on a field goal to pull within three points, at 14-10.
WSSU’s Jameze Massey would take the kickoff, make some moves and look like he was about to break into the open field, but he was stripped of the ball and Indiana (Pa) would pounce on it, deep on Winston-Salem State’s side of the field.
Four plays later, the Crimson Hawks would find the endzone on a De’Antwan Williams one yard run. The score put IUP up for the first time in the game, 17-14, heading into the fourth and final quarter.
On the Rams’ next series, head coach Connell Maynor rolled the dice and inserted All-Everything quarterback, Kameron Smith into the game to the wild cheers of the WSSU faithful in attendance. It would be Smith’s first action since going down in the CIAA Championship game’s first half to a shoulder injury.
Kameron Smith would not be ball on his first two possessions, but on the third, Smith guided WSSU on what would turn out to be the game winning drive.
A huge run for 15 yards on second and ten, by the diminutive Bryce Sherman kept the Rams moving, and Smith would hook up with Juhuann Butler for 21 yards putting the Rams in the red zone. Three plays later Kameron Smith would find Ricky Rozier from one yard out for a touchdown (Rozier’s second of the game), giving Winston-Salem State a 21-17 lead with 3:51 to play.
Indiana (Pa) would take the kickoff and go on a determined drive, hoping to score and pull off the upset. Quarterback Mike Box was pinpoint accurate, completing passes of 13 yards, 23 yards, 22 yards and 15 yards consecutively to move the ball inside the WSSU 10 yard line with under one minute to play.
With the season on the line, the WSSU defense, overshadowed by its offense most of the year, came up with one of the biggest goal line stands in school history.
Mike Box would find De’Antwan Williams for a five yard gain, before two straight incomplete passes brought up a fourth and goal with 34 seconds to play.
After a timeout by IUP, the crowd stood to its feet for the final play of someone’s season at stake. Mike Box would take the snap, but could not find his initial receiver open, and the Rams’ Casey Davenport would pressure Box and hit his arm mid throw, and the ball would find nothing but empty grass, sending the WSSU Rams bench and fans into a wild celebratory frenzy.
Kameron Smith would kneel on the final play, giving the WSSU Rams the victory, and crowning them Super Region One Champs for the second consecutive season and putting them back into the NCAA DII National Semi-Finals in back to back seasons.
Offensively for Winston-Salem State, Anthony Carrothers passed for 259 yards and one touchdown (10 of 25 with 1 interception), while Kameron Smith came off the bench to pass for 32 yards and the game winning score.
The WSSU Ram running game was ground to halt by the stiff Crimson Hawk defense. Anthony Carrothers’ 17 yards led the Rams, with Bryce Sherman and Maurice Lewis finishing with 15 rushing yards.
Jameze Massey had another 100+ yard day, hauling in five passes for 104 yards, while Juhuann Butler had another monster day with 123 yard receiving on four catches. Kenneth Patterson had one catch for a 55 yard touchdown, while Jamal Williams and Ricky Rozier hauled in one pass each, with Rozier hauling in one touchdown pass to go with his one rushing score.
Defensively, All-American Carlos Fields led the Rams with a game high 10 tackles and one interception, while Daniel Mungin, Dominique Tate and Barry Tripp each had seven tackles. Mungin also registered a sack. Darryl Pulliam, Khendra Reid and Donnie Owens each finished with six tackles and Owens also picked up a sack. Malcolm Rowe had five tackles, with Justin Wilkerson having four tackles and an interception.
Winston-Salem State University will host West Texas A&M at 6:30 pm in Bowman Gray Stadium, next Saturday for a chance to play in the NCAA DII National Championship Game. The game will be shown “live” on ESPN3.com.