Quarterback Rudy Johnson led Winston-Salem State to a 27-20 home victory against Slippery Rock Saturday in the first round of the Division II playoffs after trying week for him and his teammates.
Johnson was the victim of an attack by a group of Virginia State players eight days before the Rams’ playoff game, which led to the cancellation of the CIAA Championship Game. The cancellation denied the Rams a shot at their third consecutive CIAA championship
Johnson was the only captain that Winston-Salem coach Connell Maynor sent to midfield for the pregame coin toss, sending a message that the Rams were confident that Johnson would be on top of his game after suffering an injured right eight days earlier.
The first-team All-CIAA pick, threw for 315 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 86 yards for the Rams, the No. 4 seed in their region and the top-ranked team in black college football polls.
“I was definitely happy to get back on the field and play with my teammates,’’ Johnson said.
Johnson also rushed for 86 while improving to 10-0 as the Rams’ starter. But he was far from perfect. Slippery Rock intercepted him three times to set up all three of its touchdowns. Still, the Rams (10-1), the 2012 Division II national runner-up, amassed 477 yards total offense despite four turnovers.
Winston-Salem’s defense, No. 1 in Division II, had a stellar performance. The Rams held Slippery Rock (8-3) to a season-low 210 total yards in the Rock’s first postseason appearance in 14 years.
Slippery Rock took a 6-0 lead in the first period, capitalizing on a fumble by Winston-Salem. Running back Teddy Blakeman scored on a two-yard run, but the conversion attempt was no good when the holder bobbled the snap.
Johnson threw touchdown passes to Josh Glisson and Will Miller to give Winston-Salem a 13-6 lead.
Slippery Rock Quarterback Nigel Barksdale, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year, was benched at the start of the game for disciplinary reasons. Barksdale entered the game in the second quarter and threw an interception that Larry Hearne returned 70 yards for a touchdown that increased Winston-Salem’s lead to 20-7 with 7:20 remaining in the first half.
Both teams were plagued with penalties. Slippery Rock was flagged 12times for 116 yards; the Rams had 17 penalties for 155 yards.
Winston-Salem will play Shepherd, the top seed in the region, in the second round Saturday.
Bethune-Cookman 29, Florida A&M 10 – The Wildcats wrapped up a share of the MEAC championship and their third FCS playoff appearance in four seasons with a victory in the Florida Classic in Orlando. The Wildcats earned a share of the championship with South Carolina State, but they grabbed the conference’s automatic playoff berth on the strength of their victory against the Bulldogs earlier this season. The Wildcats (10-2, 7-1 MEAC) will face Coastal Carolina in the first round of the playoffs in rematch from last year’s opening round that Coastal Carolina won 24-14. Bethune-Cookman defeated its arch-rival for the third consecutive year with a suffocating defense. Florida A&M (3-9, 2-6 MEAC) managed just 89 yards total offense and eight first downs, was 2-for-12 on third down conversion attempts and never got inside Bethune-Cookman’s 30-yard line. The Rattlers’ touchdown came on Jonathan Pillow’s 45-yard fumble return in the third quarter. Bethune-Cookman controlled the game and the clock with its running game. Running back Isidore Jackson rushed for 96 yards on 29 carries and quarterback Quentin Williams had 70 yards on the ground. Each scored a touchdown as Bethune-Cookman held the ball 36 minutes, 48 seconds.
South Carolina State 17, Norfolk State 3 – The Bulldogs gained a share of their 15th MEAC championship with a hard-fought road victory. The Bulldogs (9-3, 7-1 MEAC) tied Bethune-Cookman for the crown. It is the first conference championship for South Carolina State since 2010 when the Bulldogs shared the title with Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman. The Bulldogs received an at-large playoff berth and will play Furman in the first round. South Carolina State prevailed over Norfolk State in a defensive struggle as the teams’ offenses combined to generate just over 400 yards. Norfolk State (3-9, (3-5 MEAC) held the Bulldogs to 209 total yards and forced four turnovers. But the Spartans’ offense didn’t fare much better against South Carolina State, gaining 218 total yards, including only 90 on the ground.
North Alabama 30, Tuskegee 27 – The Golden Tigers came up short in their first-ever Division II playoff appearance after leading by three points in the first quarter. North Alabama (9-2), in the playoffs for a record tying 18th time, took the opening kickoff and drove 69 yards in nine plays for the first score of the game. Quarterback Luke Wingo was three-for-three on the drive, including a nine-yard touchdown pass to Chris Coffey. Tuskegee (8-3) responded with 10 unanswered points to take the lead. Trevor Wylie booted a 45-yard field goal with 5:29 remaining in the first period for the Golden Tigers’ first points, and quarterback Rashard Burkette connected with Larry Cobb on a 57-yard touchdown pass after North Alabama went three-and-out. North Alabama led 24-17 at the half, but Tuskegee tied the score with a six-play, 75-yard drive on the Golden Tigers’ first possession of the second half. Burkette hit Kalee Williams with a 29-yard touchdown pass for the tying points. North Alabama recaptured the lead on its next possession, which consumed 28 seconds, with a pair of big plays. Running back Lamonte Thompson had a 25-yard run, and Wingo threw a 36-yard touchdown pass Korey Jones. The Golden Tigers put together a 66-yard drive when they got the ball back, but they had to settle for a 38-yard field goal that cut the lead to 30-27 with 2:06 remaining in the third quarter.
Tennessee State – The Tigers, whose season ended Nov. 16, received an at-large berth for the FCS playoffs and will play Butler in the first round. The Big Blue (9-3, 6-2 OVC) finished second Eastern Illinois in the OVC. Tennessee State is among the top defensive teams in the FCS, ranking No. 6 in points allowed (16.8); No. 1 in third down conversions (0.247, 40-for-162), No. 8 in interceptions (17) aand No. 5 in total defense (278.9 yards). Butler (9-3) is the champion of the Pioneer Football League and received the conference’s automatic berth after winning a tie-breaker with Marist. It is the Bulldogs’ first playoff appearance. Tennessee State is in the playoffs for the fifth time overall. The NCAA vacated the Tigers’ 1981 and’82 appearances for rules violations.
Prairie View A&M 43, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 23
Georgia Tech 66, Alabama A&M 0
Howard 42, Hampton 36 (2 OT)
Morgan State 31, Delaware State 26
North Carolina A&T 28, North Carolina Central 0