RAMS MAGICAL SEASON FALLS SHORT WITH 21-14 LOSS TO WAYNE STATE
WINSTON-SALEM, NC -- The perfect season for the Winston-Salem State University Rams came to an end today, as the Wayne State University Warriors defeated the Rams, 21-14 in the NCAA DII Semi Finals at Bowman Gray Stadium.
The Rams finish their season at 13-1, while Wayne State (12-3) advances to next week's NCAA DII Championship Game. They will face the winner of the Delta St./Pittsburg St. winner.
Wayne State would take little time to get on the scoreboard, as they took the opening kick, and four plays later Mickey Mohner would find Josh Renel and we would make the Rams miss tackles on his way to a 25 yard touchdown reception.
The WSSU Rams would take the ensuing kickoff and on the first play Kameron Smith would go up top to an open Jameze Massey deep in Warrior territory, but he ball glanced off of Massey's fingertips. WSSU would pick up a first down on a Smith to Juhuann Butler 13 yard pass, but the Rams would stall and have to punt.
Neither team would be able to do much on their next possession and after a series of punts, Wayne State would take over with 2:54 l4ft in the first quarter. But Mohner would drop back and his pass downfield to would be picked off by WSSU's Darryl Pulliam.
The Rams would move into Warrior territory as the second quarter began, but on fourth and 11, Smith's pass to Jamal Williams would sail high and WSSU would turn the ball over on downs.
Wayne State would take the ball and march downfield, going 80 yards in 12 plays, capped by a Mickey Mohner one yard run, pushing Wayne State's lead to 14-0.
Down by their largest deficit of the year, WSSU would take the kickoff and march downfield once again deep into WSU territory, but on fourth down, Kameron Smith's pass to Tehvyn Brantley would be broken up on a hard hit near the goal line, giving the ball back to Wayne State.
Winston-Salem State would hold and force a punt. On their first play Nicholas Cooper would bust through the defense for a 20 yard gain and Kameron Smith would find Dominique Fitzgerald for a 10 yard pass and catch before Smith would find Juhuaan Butler on a 26 yard corner pattern for a score.
Wayne State would take a 14-7 lead into the locker room at the half, and the Rams would be looking to make some adjustments while also regrouping to take the ball first in the second half.
Coming out at the start of the second half, WSSU would move to the ball to mid field before they stalled and had to punt.
Wayne State could fair no better on their possession and would also have to punt, pinning the Rams deep at their own right yard line.
Nicholas Cooper would pick up 10 yard on first down and two plays later Kameron Smith would find Dominique Fitzgerald for three yards to pick up the first down.
But on first down, Smith would bump into the running back on a draw play and fumble the ball, which was scooped up by Matt Andrew and returned 18 yards to the Rams' one yard line.
WSU's Chet Privett would score on the next play, pushing the lead to 21-7 early third quarter.
Winston-Salem State would try to answer, and would march themselves 54 yards and had a first and goal, before two running plays were cut behind the line and consecutive passes to Tehvyn Brantley went incomplete and the Rams squandered a golden opportunity to get points and cut into the Warrior lead. The rams would turn the ball over on downs again as they gave the ball back to Wayne State as the third quarter came to an end.
The Ram defense would answer the call, when on third down, Malcolm Rowe would step in front of a Warrior pass, and pick it off and return it 45 yards to the Wayne State five yard line.
Even with the ball close to the goal line, the WSSU offense seemed to not be clicking on all cylinders, and on fourth and goal from the one, Nicholas Cooper would cross the goal line and with a successful Alejandro Suarez PAT, WSUU had moved to within seven at 21-14.
But it would be the last time the WSSU Rams would find the endzone.
With the clock quickly becoming WSSU's enemy, Wayne State would methodically pick up yardage and two first downs, before having to punt, but ta king 3:35 off the clock.
Kameron Smith would be sacked twice and Nicholas Cooper would be stopped for a loss before having to punt.
With 5:09 left in the game, Wayne State would take over and start milking the clock once again. And once again though the Rams' defense would stiffen and not allow anything, precious time was coming off the clock. They would punt the ball back to WSSU with just 2:04 remaining.
The Winston-Salem State Rams would have to march 94 yards to tie with game.
Kameron Smith would lead what could be the Rams final drive of the season, and after a Nicholas Cooper rush of five yards, he would find Cooper for a 15 yard pass and catch for the first down. After an incomplete pass attempt to tight end Michael Byrd, Cooper would rush for four yards before Smith would hook up with Tehvyn Brantley for 14 and a first down with a minute to play.
But a Maurice Lewis one yard run and three consecutive incomplete passes, with the last one in the direction of Juhuann Butler, but was broken up and the Rams season had come to an end.
Offensively, Nicholas Cooper finished with 96 yards rushing on 21 carries and one touchdown. He also led the Rams with four receptions for 25 yards. Kameron Smith finished with 129 yards passing with one touchdown, going 13 of 29. He was sacked five times on the day. Dominique Fitzgerald finished with three catches for 49 yards and 16 yards on punt returns. Juhuaan Butler had two catches for 39 yards and one touchdown. Tehvyn Brantley, Cedric Hickman, Jameze Massey and Maurice Lewis each had one catch.
Defensively for the Rams, Malcolm Rowe finished with a game high 11 tackles (9 solo) and an interception. Carlos Field and Alton Keaton had seven tackles each, with Field also having two tackles for lost yards, and Keaton had two pass breakups. Khendra Reid and CJ Washington had four tackles apiece. Reid also had a tackle for a loss. Jermaine Kesler, Donnie Owens and Barry Tripp each had a tackle for a loss.
"This team has a lot to be proud of", said Connell Maynor, WSSU's head coach. "The most wins of any HBCU ever, 13 wins, CIAA Champs, HBCU National Champs, Semi Finals of the NCAA Playoffs. We have nothing to hang our heads about. We came up short. When you play great games against great teams the little things make the difference," added Manor.
"We'll be back. We will reload and we will be back here next year and we will have the same goal to win the National Championship."