TUSKEGEE, Ala. – With all the attention focused on the rushing offense of undefeated Lane and the rush defense of 12th-ranked Tuskegee; it was the play of redshirt freshman Ladarell Pettway that stole the show in the Golden Tigers 38-7 SIAC West Division victory at Cleve L. Abbott Memorial Alumni Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Pettway, who narrowly missed scoring a touchdown last week, made an immediate – and lasting – impact on the Golden Tiger faithful Saturday. The redshirt freshman scored his first career touchdown on a 56-yard pass from quarterback Kevin Lacey in the second quarter that put Tuskegee up by two scores.
But it was the play in the fourth quarter that caught everyone in attendance off guard. Pettway field a punt that bounced at the Tuskegee 36-yard line, and while everyone was watching it bounce he took the ball down the sideline. He cut back at the 15-yard line and danced into the end zone for a 64-yard punt return to put the finishing touches on the division victory. [easyazon_infoblock align=”right” cart=”y” identifier=”B01KKXKA9M” locale=”US” tag=”hbcusports-20″]
Even though Pettway stole the show, the Tuskegee defense proved why they are one of the best in the country against the rush. The Dragons of Lane came into the contest averaging a SIAC-best 265.7 yards per game on the ground, and they were held to just 86 on Saturday. Junior Marcus Holliday was averaging 146.7 yards per game coming into the contest, and he was held to just 46 yards on 10 carries.
As a unit, Tuskegee held Lane to just 156 yards of total offense – 227 yards below their season average.
“Our defense has been playing well all year,” Tuskegee head coach Willie Slater said. “I think they are getting better and better as this year’s going on. We had some parts that we were out of place in the first game and those have been corrected. They are playing hard, that’s the most important part.”
The Golden Tigers were able to get to Lane quarterback Marcus Reynolds three times on Saturday, equaling the total number of sacks allowed this season by the Dragons. Vladimir Gray, Daryl George and Kevdrick Blue all recorded sacks; while the team registered nine tackles for loss on the day. Osband Thompson and Kalil Gray led Tuskegee with seven tackles each on Saturday.
Although the defense and Pettway did their part, the Tuskegee offense didn’t play too shabby either against Lane. The Golden Tigers were able to put 370 yards up of total offense, including 300-plus in the first half.
Lacey played as he has the first three games of the year, completing 16-of-24 passes for 218 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He did not throw an interception, and was not sacked in the game while only playing the first three quarters before freshman Jamarcus Ezell made his fourth appearance of the year.
The Golden Tigers also rushed for 142 yards (187 gained, but a loss of 45) on 36 carries with the Lacey finishing with a team-high 61 yards on the ground.
“He’s focused,” Slater said of his senior quarterback. “Lacey is a different guy this year, and I’m glad. He’s been really good for us. He’s been totally focused and he didn’t make a whole lot of mistakes today.”
Jayjerien Craig finished with 34 yards on nine carries, while Jerome Lewis carried the ball six times for 30 yards and a touchdown. Kenny Gant also carried the ball five times for 29 yards for the Golden Tigers. Tuskegee had seven different receivers with a catch, with four players – Leo Gilbert, Desmond Reece, Craig and Gant each catching three passes.
Tuskegee jumped on the board early with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Lacey to Reece just 3:09 into the contest, and built that lead to 14-0 when Lacey took an option around right end and dove into the end zone with 5:20 remaining in the opening quarter.
After Lane cut the lead to 14-7, the Golden Tigers finished with 24 unanswered points over the final 39:23. The lead was pushed to 21-7 after the 56-yard reception by Pettway, and then 24-7 when Dalton Hall connected on a 20-yard field goal with just 18 seconds remaining in the opening half.
The Golden Tigers scored a pair of touchdowns in the second half, a one-yard run by Lewis and the return from Pettway.
Tuskegee returns to action next Saturday at Cleve L. Abbott Memorial Alumni Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1 pm against UNC Pembroke and can be seen on the Tuskegee Digital Network.
Courtesy: Tuskegee Athletics