The victory was a first for Freeman as a head coach or an assistant in 11 games against Tuskegee.
Morehouse Coach Rich Freeman exorcised a personal demon Saturday as the Maroon Tigers rallied from a 14-point second-quarter deficit to beat Tuskegee in the 76th Tuskegee-Morehouse Classic in Columbus, Ga.
The victory was the first for Freeman as a head coach or an assistant in 11 games against Tuskegee. It was just the third victory for Morehouse in the 16 games in the series, which began in 1902. Tuskegee went into Saturday’s game with a 66-27-7 edge in the overall series and a 51-19-5 advantage in the Classic.
“I guess it gives me some temporary relief,’’ Freeman said. “Now I’m 1-0. It was a very rewarding win for us as a team. It had huge national implications and conference implications. It puts us very much in the race for (SIAC East) division.’’
The victory for the Maroon Tigers (5-1, 5-0 SIAC), coupled with Albany State’s upset loss to Lane, puts them in control of the East Division race. They play at Albany State Saturday with the winner most likely emerging as the division champ.
Freshman Justin Nared scored on a pair of first-half runs, scrambling 16 yards into the end zone in the first quarter and 10 yards in the second period, to give the Golden Tigers a 14-0 lead. At that point, it that game was destined to end the same as so many others in this rivalry – that being another Tuskegee victory.
“It started out the same as the past four years with Tuskegee petty much keeping us from running and forcing turnovers,’’ Freeman said. “It had all the makings of the same thing we experienced in the past. The way we won it down the stretch against team with pride and tradition was very rewarding.’’.
The Maroon Tigers scored on their final possession of the first half to cut the lead to 14-7. They got the ball with 2:13 at the Golden Tigers’ 39 following Stewart Moody’s 38-yard punt and a nine-yard return. Three plays later, David Carter, No. 7 in rushing in NCAA Division II and No. 1 in the SIAC, scored on a 20-yard run with 1:15 left in the half.
“That was very pivotal,’’ Freeman said. “We weren’t able to get anything going except one drive (that ended with a missed field goal). It was very important to get on the boad and not come out 14-0 to start the second half. It gave us momentum. We talked about getting it back to 14-14 game. Once we were able to do that we felt we had the player to win the game. At no point in our minds did we think the problem was players. The problem was Tuskegee’s mystique and tradition. They played with a lot of pride and determination. We overcame that.’’
Carter’s touchdown breathed life into the Maroon Tigers in the second half, and they took control of the game.
“We were coaching too much in the first half,” Freeman said. “We got together as a staff at halftime and just decided to have some confidence in our players. We just ran a generic offense and played some generic football in the second half. It was very vanilla, but we didn’t make many mistakes and were able to start moving the ball.”
Meanwhile, Tuskegee’s offense, which has failed to score more than 19 points in a game this season came to a grinding halt in the second half. The Golden Tigers finished the contest with just 181 total yards, 72 passing and 109 rushing. Tuskegee coach Willie Slater says his team’s lack of productivity on offense has as much – if not more – to do with giving life to Morehouse in the second half as the Maroon Tigers’ scoring drive on their final possession of the first half.
“That was a big drive,’’ Slater said. “If we could have come out with less than a touchdown, that would have been good. But I thought our lack of execution in the second half was the big thing. We didn’t make play. They made some adjustments, but we didn’t make play. When we had to tackle the guy we didn’t do that. When we needed first downs, we didn’t make them.’’
Tuskegee managed to hold onto the lead through the third quarter even though Morehouse had seized control of the game. Stewart Moody’s 31-yard punt put the Maroon Tigers in a hole at their three-yard line. However, they dug themselves out with a 17-play, 87-yard drive, but it only netted a field goal that made the score 14-10 going into the fourth quarter.
Still Freeman said the driving was encouraging to him.
“It was a good drive,’’ he said, “a statement drive for us. We walked away with points.’’
Morehouse finally took the lead midway through the fourth period on a nine-play 50-yard scoring drive. The Maroon Tigers only threw one pass on the drive, which ended with quarterback Byron Ingram scoring on two-yard run.
“They weren’t doing anything fancy,’’ Slater said of Morehouse’s offensive plan. “Basically they ran one play. They did a good job with it.’’
Morehouse rushed for 144 yards, 87 below its season average, and 3.3 yards a carry; Carter gained 99 yards, 38 under his per game average. It was the first game this season that Carter failed to gain at least 100 yards.
“Until the fourth quarter, we did a pretty good job,’’ Slater said.
The Golden Tigers had an opportunity to regain the lead in the final minutes. They got the ball at their 27 after stopping Carter for a three-yard loss on a fourth-and-two play with 2:20 left in the game.
The Golden Tigers picked up one first down before they gave the ball back to Morehouse on an interception that bounced off the intended receiver.
Howard 29, Florida A&M 28: The Bison stunned Florida A&M with 29 points in the fourth quarter – including 15 in the final 1:23 – and spoiled the Rattlers’ Homecoming in an MEAC contest that had a wild finish. After trimming Florida A&M’s lead to 28-26 with four seconds remaining, Howard(3-3, 2-2 MEAC) lined up for a 25-yard field goal. Sophomore kicker Parker Munoz’s attempt was good, but the Rattlers (3-3, 1- MEAC) had called timeout to freeze him. However, after a brief discussion, the officials determined that Florida A&M had used all of its timeouts. The Rattlers were penalized half the distance to the goal, and Munoz nailed the winning kick. The victory ended Howard’s seven-game losing streak against Florida A&M, and it was the second consecutive conference win for the Bison, who last week ended their 29-game conference losing streak when they beat Savannah State.
North Carolina A&T 22, Bethune-Cookman 3: The Aggies held Bethune-Cookman to lowest offensive output in Brian Jenkins’ two and half seasons as coach en route to an MEAC victory at home. The Wildcats (2-3, 1-2) entered the game averaging a conference-best 433.2 yards total offense; the Aggie (3-2, 2-0 MEAC) held them to just 108 yards, including minus five rushing. Bethune-Cookman turned the ball over on fumbles on three consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter while trying to rally from a 15-3 deficit.
Prairie View A&M 23, Southern 20: Freshman Christopher Barrick kicked a 19-yard field goal with 10 seconds remaining to give the Panthers a SWAC road victory in a showdown for first place in the West Division. Barrick’s kick capped a 12-play, 41-yard drive that took 5:36 off the clock; it also made Coach Heishma Northern, a Southern alumnus who was a candidate for the Jaguars’ job two years ago, a winner in his return to Baton Rouge, La., his hometown. Prairie View (4-2, 4-1 SWAC) relied on a strong defensive effort for the victory, holding Southern (2-4, 2-2) to 257 yards total offense and forcing two turnovers.
Lane 26, Albany State 24: The Dragons played lock down defense in the second half to register their first ever victory the visiting Golden Rams, who entered the game ranked No. 12 in NCAA Division II. Lane (3-3, 1-2 SIAC) held Albany State (4-2, 2-1 SIAC) to three points and 52 yards total offense in the second half after giving up 21 points in the first half. The Dragons completely throttled the Golden Rams on their final two possessions of the game as they were held to minus 41 yards. The Dragons, who earlier this season ended a 21-game losing streak, which was the second longest in Division II, won at home for jus the second time in the last two years.
Alabama State 43, Texas Southern 29: The Hornets erupted for 21 points in the third quarter in Houston to win a rematch of the 2010 SWAC Championship Game and extend their conference winning streak to eight straight games. The Hornets (5-1, 5-0) lead the East Division and are off to their best start since 2005. They scored 30 or more points for the fourth time in six games. The lead changed six times in the first two and half quarters before the Hornets took control in the third period. Defending SWAC champion Texas Southern (2-3, 1-3 SWAC) lost despite rushing for 246 yards, 127 by Marcus Wright.
Fairmont State 49, Bowie State 20
Alabama A&M 37, Miss. Valley State 14
Bloomsburg 45, Cheyney 10
Edward Waters 14, Livingstone 13
Elizabeth City State 43, Virginia Union 41, 3OT
Fayetteville State 49, Virginia State 21
Hampton 28, Princeton 23
Jackson State 48, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 10
Johnson C. Smith 36, Shaw 27
Kentucky State 25, Fort Valley State 24
Langston 41, Panhandle State 23
Lincoln (Pa.) 31, Chowan 15
Miles 19, Clark Atlanta 16
Missouri Western 81, Lincoln (Mo.) 20
Morgan State 44, Savannah State 17
Norfolk State 38, Delaware State 21
North Greenville 49, Central State 20
South Carolina State 49, NC Central 38
Stillman 44, Benedict 0
Tennessee State 55, SE Missouri State 3
Va. University of Lynchburg 34, West Virginia Tech 6
West Liberty 28, West Virginia State 20
Winston-Salem State 35, Saint Augustine’s 28