Tuskegee’s fourth consecutive Division II playoff appearance figured to be a brief one. The Golden Tigers got into the 28-team field as the No. 7 seed in Super Region 2 and had to go on the road against second-seeded Newberry, one of the hottest teams in the field after reeling off 10 straight wins.
The Golden Tigers (9-2) were equal to the challenge, however, as they stunned the Wolves 35-33 to advance to the second round for the second straight year. They will play North Greenville next.
Tuskegee scored three times in the second quarter to command of the game and held on for the victory after leading 21-10 at the half.
Kenny Gant Jr., the son of former NFL running back Kenny Gant Sr., ran for a career-high 139 yards on 18 carries – including a critical 49-yard touchdown run in the third quarter – to lead Tuskegee’s offense, which totaled 412 yards.
Quarterback Kevin Lacey also had a strong performance, completing 13 of 17 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns, both to Javarrius Cheatham. Cheatham also caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Jemarcus Ezell for the Golden Tigers’ first score. Lacey’s first touchdown pass to Cheatham, an 18-yarder, gave Tuskegee a 14-10 lead. Jerome Lewis’s one-yard touchdown run with 58 seconds remaining in the secvond quarter increased Tuskegee’s lead to 21-10.
Newberry (10-2) struck quickly at the start of the third quarter and trimmed Tuskegee’s lead to 21-17. The Wolves took the second half kickoff and scored in just five plays as quarterback Braxton Ivery got into the end zone on a 12-yard run. After Newberry’s defense held Tuskegee to three-and-out, Shea Rodgers kicked a 32-yard field goal with 8:41 remaining in the quarter to make the score 21-20. The Golden Tigers regained control of the game when Gant bolted 49 yards up the middle for a touchdown that gave Tuskegee a 28-20 lead.
Ivery’s second touchdown, a two-yard run, brought Newberry within two points of the lead at 28-26 with 14:48 left in the game. Tuskegee responded with a 75-yard scoring drive for the Golden Tigers’ points, which came on a seven-yard pass from Lacey to Cheatham.
Ivery kept Newberry’s hopes for victory alive with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Markell Castle with 3:57 remaining. The Wolves got the back with 1:34 on the clock, but Jonathan McCutcheon intercepted Ivery’s pass at Tuskegee’s 31, ending their chance for their fifth come-from-behind win of the season.
North Carolina Central 42, North Carolina A&T 21 – It’s no more sharing for the Eagles, who defeated their arch-rival for the third consecutive year. North Carolina Central’s previous two victories against the Aggies gave the Eagles a share of the MEAC championship. This year the Eagles (9-2, 8-0 MEAC) have the title all to themselves – and a berth in the Celebration Bowl against the SWAC champion – following a dominant performance against North Carolina A&T’s vaunted defense. North Carolina A&T (9-2, 7-1 MEAC), ranked ninth in the FCS Coaches Poll, boasted the fifth-ranked rushing defense nationally, but quarterback Malcolm Bell and running back Dorrel McClain combined two run for 240 yards and five touchdowns.
Bell gained a game-high 131 yards and scored two touchdowns; McClain picked up 109 yards with three touchdowns. The Aggies hadn’t allowed an opposing runner to gain 100 yards this season. Bell also threw for 184 yards and ended the game with 315 total yards. North Carolina Central’s defense played a key role in the victory. The Eagles limited Aggies running back Tarik Cohen, the MEAC’s career rushing leader and the No. 3 rusher in the FCS this season with 1,436 yards, to 82 yards on 23 carries. The Eagles, No. 20 in the FCS poll, also forced three turnovers and had three quarterback sacks. North Carolina A&T gained an at-large berth in the FCS playoffs and will play at Richmond Saturday.
LIU Post 48, Winston-Salem State 41 – The Rams’ comeback effort came up short in their Division II first round road playoff game despite a stellar rushing performance by running back Kerrion Moore. Moore ran for 148 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries, but that wasn’t enough for the Rams (9-3) to overcome a 24-point fourth-quarter deficit. The Rams trailed 48-24 going into the final period before staging a furious rally. Moore scored on a two-yard run and Will Johnson added 28-yard field goal to make the score 48-34 and give the Rams hope.
Quincy Jackson recovered an onside kick for Winston-Salem following Johnson’s field goal, and the Rams converted the turnover into a touchdown when quarterback Rod Tinsley connected with Canard Brown on a 22-yard touchdown pass that made the score 48-41 with 5:49 remaining in the game. However, LIU Post (12-0) converted four first downs to run out the clock. Winston-Salem grabbed an early 7-0 lead when Jayron Rankin returned a pass interception 15 yards for a touchdown less than two minutes into the game. The score was tied 14-all going into the second quarter but LIU Post scored 20 unanswered points to take a commanding 34-14 lead. Johnson kicked a 29-yard field goal as time expired in the half to cut the lead to 34-17.
Army 60, Morgan State 3
Bethune-Cookman 39, Florida A&M 19
Howard 26, Delaware State 21
Norfolk State 17, Hampton 10
South Carolina State 32, Savannah State 0
Alcorn State 35, Jackson State 16
Auburn 55, Alabama A&M 0
Grambling State 47, Texas Southern 28
Prairie View A&M 57, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 0
Southern 55, Mississippi Valley State 0
Tennessee State 32, Southeast Missouri