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The Tuskegee vs. Miles matchup Saturday in Birmingham, Ala., lived up to its

 

The Tuskegee vs. Miles matchup Saturday in Birmingham, Ala., lived up to its “SIAC Game of the Year” billing as the in-state rivals met for the West Division title.

A record crowd of 15,791 fans jammed into Sloan-Alumni Stadium to see if Miles, the defending conference champion and the No. 1-ranked team in the NCAA Division II Super Region II, could hold off perennial conference champ Tuskegee, which has won an unprecedented 25 SIAC titles.

The visiting Golden Tigers, No. 24 in NCAA Division II, broke the game open with a strong second-half performance and came away with a 27-14 victory. The win, the ninth in a row for the Golden Tigers (8-1, 7-0) was their eighth in a row and gives them a spot in the SIAC Championship against East Division champion Fort Valley State in Atlanta Saturday at Lakewood Stadium. The Golden Tigers defeated Fort Valley 49-18 earlier this season.

“Our kids played hard,’’ said Tuskegee coach Willie Slater. “They had a real strong desire to win.’’

Running back Derrick Washington was the offensive star for the Golden Tigers, whose only loss this season was a 7-6 decision to Alabama A&M in the season-opener. Washington, a senior transfer from the University of Missouri, rushed for 208 yard on 22 carries. It was his second consecutive 200-yard rushing game. Washington leads the SIAC with 1,175 yards.

“They controlled the clock. “They’ve got a great running back,’’ Miles coach Reginald Ruffin said. “I didn’t think he wasn’t. I looked at him running for 100 yards against Texas and those schools in the Big 12. He’s very good; he’s very elusive. He’s a big running back with speed.’’

Washington’s running allowed Tuskegee to play ball-control, and the Golden Tigers had the ball nearly seven minutes longer than Miles. They nearly doubled the Golden Bears’ time of possession in the fourth quarter.

The Golden Tigers got some offensive punch from an unexpected source as sophomore quarterback Justin Nared completed eight of 11 passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for a pair of scores.

Nared’s 47-yard touchdown pass to Larry Cobb in the third quarter broke a 14-all halftime tie. He gave the Golden Tigers some insurance point with a one-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

“He played better than I had seen on film in terms of his accuracy,’’ Ruffin said.

Miles, No. 15 in the Division II top 25, entered the game averaging 37.0 points and 424.5 yards a game. The Golden Tigers held them to just 327 total yards. Golden Bears quarterback David Thomas entered the game averaging more than 200 yards a game through the air. Thomas completed 18 of 21 passes, but only mustered 167 yards through the air with no touchdowns. Floyd Graves, the Golden Bears top rusher with 727 yards, was held to 40 yards. He scored both of Miles’ first-half touchdowns, but the Golden Bears could only come up with a field goal in the second half.

“We made them have to go the long way,’’ Slater said. “We didn’t give them any big plays which is good. It’s hard to go 80 yards. And we didn’t have any turnovers. Turnovers equal 40 yards (in field position) because if you don’t turn it over, you can punt the ball and gain 40 yards. That helped the defense.’’

The game was filled with emotion for both teams. Ruffin, in his second season as Miles’ coach, was defensive coordinator at Tuskegee for five seasons on Slater’s staff. What’s more, when Slater was offensive coordinator at the University of North Alabama, he recruited Ruffin to play for the Lions, and Ruffin went on to become an All-American linebacker.

In addition, Ruffin and Tuskegee defensive line coach Levron Harbin played together in high school and at North Alabama. Also Miles assistants Aaron James and Fred Ellis played at Tuskegee.

“There was a lot of stuff that made us excited,’’ Slater said.

Key Results
Fort Valley State 38, Albany State 20:  The Wildcats used ballhawking defense to register a victory against their arch-rivals in the 23rd Fountain City Classic and win the SIAC East Division Championship. The Wildcats (8-2, 6-1 SIAC) will play West champion Tuskegee in the conference championship game Saturday at Lakewood Stadium in Atlanta. Fort Valley’s defense forced Albany State (6-4, 5-2 SIAC) to commit five turnovers. The Wildcats also recorded a safety and scored and returned a blocked extra point for a score. Senior quarterback Antonio Henton threw three first-half touchdown passes and finished the day with 236 yards through the air. Wide receiver Chris Slaughter had five catches for 113 yards. Seth Hill led Wildcat ballcarriers with 84 yards rushing.

Howard 20, Hampton 10: Senior running back Terrence Leffall rushed for a season-high 182 yards as the Bison (6-3, 5-2 MEAC) clinched their first winning season with a home victory against their MEAC arch-rivals. It was the sixth 100-yard rushing performance in as many games this season for Leffall, who was ruled ineligible for the Bison’s first three games by the NCAA for receiving improper benefits. Hampton (2-6, 2-4) played without its starting quarterback, Travis Champion, and top running back, Jeremiah Schwartz. Quarterback Brian Swain ran for 105 yards, but he managed just 91 yards passing.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff 49, Texas Southern 3:  The Golden Lions had dominant performances on both sides of the ball en route to a road victory that clinched the SWAC West Division title. Quarterback Benjamin Anderson completed12 of 21 passes for 265 yards and four touchdowns, and the Golden Lions’ defense held Texas Southern (2-7, 2-5 SWAC) to 135 yards total offense and returned two pass interceptions for touchdowns. The win puts the golden Lions (7-2, 6-1 SWAC) in the conference championship game for the second time in school history. They lost to Alabama A&M in the 2006 title contest. Ladarius Eckwood had four receptions for 107 yards and two touchdowns for Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

North Carolina A&T 16, Florida A&M 3: The Aggies are a victory away from posting their first winning record in nine seasons after beating the visiting Rattlers for the first time since 2003. The win came just hours after Florida A&M coach announced his retirement, effective at the end of the season, to the Rattlers (3-6, 3-3) during the team’s pregame breakfast. Taylor during his 40-year career that includes stints at Howard, Virginia Union and Hampton as well as Florida A&M,  has compiled a 233-94 record. He is in the top five among NCAA Division I FCS coaches with a .709 career winning percentage and in the top five among active coaches in career victories. Taylor is tied for third with A.W. “Ace’’ Mumford of Southern among Black College coaches in career victories, only trailing “Big John’’ Merritt of Tennessee State, who won 235 games, and Eddie Robinson, who won 408 games at Grambling State. The Aggies (5-4, 3-3) held Florida A&M to just 259 yards total offense. The Rattlers only had 70 rushing yards.

Conference Results
CIAA
Chowan 35, Lincoln (Pa.) 19
Elizabeth City State 14, Bowie State 13
Johnson C. Smith 57, Livingstone 6
Saint Augustine’s 43, Shaw 42
Winston-Salem State 41, Fayetteville State 8

MEAC
Bethune-Cookman 24, Morgan State 13
North Carolina Central 23, Delaware State, 2OT
Norfolk State 33, Savannah State 21

SWAC
Alabama A&M 24, Southern 23
Alabama State 35, Prairie View A&M 2l
Jackson State 53, Grambling State 17
Miss. Valley State 33, Alcorn State 9

SIAC
Lane 38, Benedict 21 – Final
Morehouse 55, Kentucky State 7
Stillman 37, Clark Atlanta 12
Tuskegee 27, Miles 17

Non-conference Results
Edward Waters 48, Ava Maria 14
Fairmont State 48, West Virginia State 28
Virginia Union 19, Virginia State 14
Langston 21, S.W. Assemblies of God 7
McKendree 34, Central State 13
McMurry 53, Texas College 0
Murray State 49, Tennessee State 28
Northeast Oklahoma State. 45, Lincoln (Mo.) 21
Shippensburg 61, Cheyney 9
Stillman 37, Clark Atlanta 12
Virginia University of Lynchburg 21, Alderson-Broaddus 10

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