Bowie State bested preseason predictions, and now stands four quarters away from the school’s first Central Collegiate Athletic Association title.
Winston-Salem State lived up to the preseason hype, and now seeks to regain its position at the top of the CIAA heap in the second year of the Kienus Boulware era.
The teams collide in Saturday’s championship game in Durham, N.C., with the winner moving on to the Division II playoffs.
Bowie, ranked second in Super Region 1, was picked to finish third in the CIAA North behind defending league champion Virginia State and Super Region 1’s seventh-ranked Virginia Union. The Bulldogs (9-1, 7-0) spoiled those plans, reeling off seven-straight wins to end the season. Two of those seven wins were back-to-back close wins over Virginia State and Virginia Union.
The Bulldogs did win the CIAA title in 1989, but were stripped after league officials determined Bowie used ineligible players on several of their teams in the 1989-1990 academic year.
The Bulldogs enter Saturday with the CIAA’s top offense, averaging 446.3 yards per game. Bowie leads the league in total passing yards (2,777) and total TD passes (30). BSU also finished third in the CIAA in total rushing yards (1,686).
However, Bowie put up a good deal of those numbers with quarterback Matthew Goggans at the helm. Goggans started the first five games of the season before being ruled ineligible and the school self-reporting to the NCAA. Goggans led the Bulldogs to a 4-1 start before the violation.
The NCAA designated the Goggans situation as a secondary violation. The violation had no impact on BSU’s appearance Saturday, but could have an impact on where the Bulldogs will be slotted in the D2 playoffs — if Bowie gets past WSSU.
Bowie will rely on running back Kendall Jefferson (152 carries, 909 yards, 7 TDs), the CIAA’s fifth-leading rusher. Jefferson, who leads the league in kick return average (28.9 yards per return), could also provide a spark in special teams. Nyme Manns, the league’s top receiver (66 receptions, 946 yards, 12 TDs), has helped freshman quarterback Nyema Washington step up after Goggans’ ruling. Washington completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 783 yards and 11 scoring tosses in the Bulldogs’ final four games.
WSSU seeks its third CIAA title in five years. The Rams (5-5, 5-2) battled through the CIAA South, winning two of their final three games to clinch the division crown.
The Rams are averaging nearly 160 yards per game on the ground entering the championship game. Expect 235-pound running back Tyree Massey (170-798-7) will carry most of the mail, but Shawn Moore and Xavier Quick will also get carries.
Despite having the lesser record going into the game, the Rams might have a psychological edge. Durham County Stadium is approximately 80 miles from the Winston-Salem State campus, turning what is slated as a neutral-site game into a de facto WSSU home game.