First-year Miles College coach Reginald Ruffin lived up to his promise as the Golden Bears defeated defending Black College National Champion and SIAC champion Albany State 20-17 Saturday in the inaugural SIAC Championship Game in Atlanta.
When Ruffin was interviewed at Miles, he told President George T. French that if he were given the full complement of scholarships available for Division II programs – 36 – and a coaching staff, he would make the Bears winners. His words rang true when Patton Chambers booted a 29-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining.
“I’m excited for what happened being a first-year coach,’’ Ruffin said. “This is real big for the program. It was our time, our turn.’’
The championship is the first-ever for Miles (7-4), which was 3-8 last season and has only had four winning seasons 1963. The Bears’ title represents a changing of the guard in the SIAC. They are the only team other than Albany State and Tuskegee to win the conference championship since 2000. Fort Valley State (1992 and ’99) is the only other school to win the championship in the previous 21 seasons.
Ruffin says team unity was the key to the Golden Bears’ championship game victory. On Friday night, the team captains requested that they be allowed to hold a players-only meeting. The gathering lasted more than three hours and prompted Ruffin to cancel the squad’s normal team and position meetings.
“I don’t know what was said,’’ Ruffin said. “I know they were in there quite a long time. and they all had tissues and were crying when they came out. I have no clue what was said, what was done. But from what I was told, they had a heart-to-heart about the team, the program and the coaching staff. It showed Saturday. They came together as a group.’’
Albany State, which came into the game with a four-game winning streak, was gunning for its 15th conference championship. But the Golden Rams (8-3), who defeated Miles 34-27 in September, were undone by mistakes. They had turnovers on two potential scoring drives, and Brandon Hamilton missed a 38-yard field goal that would have given them the lead before Miles mounted its winning drive.
Quarterback David Thomas completed a 26-yard pass to Vondragu Hudson on third-and-12 and scrambled 12 yards to the Albany State 12 on Miles’ winning drive. Thomas completed 13 of 23 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed 16 times for 46 yards and another score and was voted Miles’ MVP.
Miles’ defense did a masterful job of controlling Albany State quarterback Stanley Jennings, the two-time SIAC Offensive Player of the Year. The Bears limited Jennings to 126 yards through the air while completing 11 of 23 passes with one interception.
Norfolk State 47, Morgan State 14: Quarterback Chris Walley threw two touchdown passes, and the Spartans defense forced four turnovers as Norfolk State locked up the first MEAC championship in school history – and an automatic berth in the FCS playoffs – with a road victory. Norfolk State (9-2, 7-1 MEAC) led 20-14 at the half before scoring 17 points in a four-minute in the third quarter and taking control of the contest. Morgan State (5-4, 4-3) took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, but Norfolk State responded with 20 unanswered points.
Jackson State 34, Alabama A&M 6: The Tigers spotted Alabama A&M a 6-0 lead and then roared back for a road victory that ended the Bulldogs’ seven-game winning streak and denied them an opportunity to clinch the SWAC East Division championship. A victory for the Bulldogs (7-3, 6-2 SWAC) would have given the division title a berth in the SWAC Championship because Alabama State lost to Southern. Quarterback Casey Therriault completed 23 of 41 passes for 428 yards and four touchdowns for Jackson State (8-2, 6-2 SWAC). The Tigers’ defense held Alabama A&M running back Kaderius Lacey to just three yards on 13 carries. Lacey entered the game as the leading rusher in the SWAC with 891 yards.
Southern 26, Alabama State 23: The Hornets suffered a gut-wrenching loss at home when Brian McCain scored on a one-yard touchdown run for Southern with nine seconds left in the game. A Hornets victory coupled with Alabama A&M’s loss to Jackson State would have given them the SWAC East title. It was the second consecutive year that the outcome between Southern and Alabama State wasn’t decided until the final seconds. Last year, Alabama State emerged with a two-point victory when the Hornets stopped a two-point conversion attempt with 16 seconds remaining. Freshman quarterback J.P. Douglas passed for 259 yards and two touchdowns for the Jaguars. Quarterback Greg Jenkins, who was injured in the first quarter of the Hornets’20-19 loss to Alabama A&M in the Magic City Classic two weeks ago and sat out their victory against Arkansas-Pine Bluff last week, came off the bench and threw for 136 yards and a touchdowns for Alabama State (7-3, 6-3 SWAC). Tim Clark rushed 92 yards and two touchdowns for the Hornets.
Grambling State 29, Texas Southern 25: Freshman quarterback D.J. Williams’ 34-yard touchdown pass to Mario Louis with 1:45 left gave the G-Men a come-from-behind victory to keep pace with Prairie View A&M in the SWAC West race. Grambling (6-4, 5-3 SWAC) trailed 25-14 going into the fourth quarter. Williams, the son Grambling coach Doug Williams, completed 14 of 19 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns, two of which went to Louis. Riko Smalls threw for 384 yards and three touchdowns for Texas Southern (4-6, 2-6 SWAC). Grambling and Prairie View have identical conference records, but Prairie View has the tie-breaker with the G-Men on the strength of its 31-23 victory against them in the State Fair Classic last month.
Winston-Salem State 38, Elizabeth City State 18: Nicholas Cooper rushed for 163 yards and three touchdowns to lead the unbeaten Rams to victory in the CIAA Championship Game in Durham, N.C. The Rams (11-0), No. 5 in Division II, only led 10-6 at the half, but scored 28 points in the final two periods to turn the game into a rout. Cooper scored all three of his touchdowns in the second half on runs of 3, 1 and 20 yards. Daronte McNeill rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns in a losing effort for Elizabeth City State (8-3). The championship is the ninth in school history for Winston-Salem State and the first since 2000.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff 15, Miss. Valley State 3 Bethune-Cookman 59, Savannah State 3
California (Pa.) 43, Cheyney 3
Charleston (West Va.) 42, West Virginia State 20
Concordia-Selma 12, Stillman 7
Edward Waters 38, Southern Virginia 15
Florida A&M 31, North Carolina Central 10
Hampton 42, Delaware State 6
Prairie View A&M 40, Alcorn State 14
South Carolina State 30, North Carolina A&T 22
SW Assemblies of God 31, Texas College 20
Southern Nazarene 38, Langston 34
St. Francis (Ind.) 50, Central State 29
Tennessee State 35, Tennessee Martin 30
Urbana 69, Lincoln (Mo.) 14
Virginia University of Lynchburg 40, George Mason 0