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.