Cornerback Qua Cox got the ball back for the Tigers on an interception, and it took them eight plays to drive 79 yards for a score. Running back Rakeem Sims reeled off the final 37 yards of the drive for a touchdown that gave Jackson State a 14-0 lead, and looked as though a rout was in the making.
UAPB’s offense got untracked on its next possession, and the Golden Lions got back into the game when Anderson scored on an eight-yard run on the first play of the second quarter.
Jackson State continued to chew up UAPB’s defense with its running game as the second quarter progressed. The Tigers put together a time consuming 64-yard, 16-play drive, taking 6:44 off the clock in the process and built their lead back to 14 points, 21-7, with 2:22 remaining in the half. The drive ended with Moore scoring on a one-yard run. Only 17 yards in the drive came through the air. UAPB, one of the most penalized teams in the SWAC, helped to keep Jackson State’s offense on the field with a roughing the kicker penalty kicker on a fourth-and-18 punt. Moore scored.
UAPB’s offense continued to go nowhere as the Golden Lions went three-and-out and gave the ball back to Jackson State near midfield at 1:06 before the half. The Tigers, intent on running the Golden Lions back to Arkansas and putting the game out of reach by the half, drove smartly to the UAPB 29 as Moore, playing with an injured throwing shoulder that he hurt two weeks early, completed three consecutive passes.
However, when Moore dropped back to pass for the fourth straight time, linebacker Xavier Lofton hit him from the blind side just before his arm went forward, and he ball popped free. Linebacker Bill Oliver, the game’s Defensive MVP, scooped it up and ran 73 yards for a touchdown.
The SWAC uses instant replay for its championship game to review calls on the field even though its not used during the regular season. A booth review upheld the call, and UAPB had new life, trailing 21-14 at the half.
“We couldn’t run away from them,’’ said Jackson State’s Comegy. “We hoped to run away from them early. We had that opportunity but it just didn’t happen. It was their day.’’
Neither team scored in the third quarter, setting the stage for the dramatic finish.
“We bent but we never broke,’’ Coleman said. “Did they scare us? Absolutely But don’t count us out.’’
NCAA Division II Playoffs
Winston-Salem State 41, West Texas A&M 18: The Rams steamrolled their way into the Division II Championship Game for the first time with an overpowering performance on both sides of the ball in a home victory.
Winston-Salem (14-0), ranked No. 2 in the nation, is just the second HBCU to play for the Division II crown. Central State lost to North Dakota State in the 1983 title game. The Rams will play Valdosta State, the 2004 and 2007 National Champion, for the crown Saturday in Florence, Ala.
Winston-Salem moved the ball at will against West Texas A&M, which allowed opponents 20.7 points. They gained 511 yards total offense, including 262 rushing. Running back Maurice Lewis led the ground attack 118 yards, and he scored touchdowns on runs of nine and 11 yards. Little-used backup running back Bryce Sherman added 73 yards, and he also scored a touchdown.
Quarterback Kameron Smith, making starting for the first time since injuring his right shoulder in the CIAA Championship Game a month ago passed for 232 yard and two touchdowns. He also scored a touchdown on a 23-yard run. Sixteenth-ranked.
West Texas (12-3) entered the contest brimming with confidence having won three straight playoff games on the road and boasting an offense that averaged 40.1 points a game and hadn’t scored fewer than 24 against any of its previous 14 opponents. Winston-Salem held the Buffaloes in check by stymieing their big-play players, running back Khiry Robinson and quarterback Dustin Vaughn. Robinson entered the game with 1,481 rushing yards. He ran for 137 yards and scored on a 13-yard run, but most of his damage was done after the game had been decided. Vaughn had thrown for 4,543 yards before facing the Rams’ defense, which harassed the entire game and held to just 169 yards through the air, about half of his per game average. Vaughn also threw two interceptions.
“The guys were ready to play,” Winston-Salem coach Connell Maynor said.