Miles completed an improbable in-season turnaround with a 50-23 victory against Albany State Saturday in SIAC Championship in Fairfield, Ala.
The Golden Bears were 0-5 after losing to Albany State on Sept. 29 with three of their losses by a total of 10 points. They rebounded to win four of their final five regular season contests with three games being decided in the final minutes as they captured their fourth SIAC West title.
The championship is the third for the Golden Bears (5-6) in Reginald Ruffin’s eight years as coach.
“Nobody gave us a shot,’’ Ruffin said. “Everybody gave up on us. “This is good for us, just having an opportunity for these guys to bounce back. I’m blessed to have them.’’
As for Miles’ losing record, Ruffin said, “We’re 5-2 in the conference. Nobody is going to ask our record. The championship trophy ain’t going to say nothing about our record. It’s going to say SIAC Champions.’’
Ruffin acknowledged that it took all of his inner-strength to remain positive when it seemed that the season was unraveling.
“It’s the way you come to practice,’’ he said. “I couldn’t let them see me down. On any given Saturday, you can lose. But you got to play the game.’’
Ruffin and the Golden Bears had plenty of reasons to be down given the way they lost some games. They lost back-to-back games to Fort Valley State and Morehouse in the closing seconds. Fort Valley pulled out a 21-19 win with a touchdown with 21 seconds to play, and Morehouse walked away a 23-21 winning on a Hail Mary pass as time expired.
Perhaps the most devastating loss with the Golden Bears’ 15-14 defeat at the hands of Lane College. Place-kicker Vincente Pena had been 0-for-8 for the season but nailed three out of four kicks to beat Miles, including the winner with six seconds remaining in the game.
Ruffin said the key to the Golden Bears’ season was their 28-27 come-from-behind victory against Clark Atlanta. Three members of the secondary missed the game due to suspensions, but still the Golden Bears found a way to win as quarterback Daniel Smith connected with Mikhall Jacobs on a 28-yard touchdown pass as time expired.
“They were locked in,’’ Ruffin said. “I saw them come together.’’
Ruffin said he sensed during practices leading up to the championship game that his team would have a breakout performance against Albany State despite the Golden Rams’ 30-24 regular season victory.
“All week, I knew it,’’ he said, “The kids were different.’’
Ruffin was right. The Golden Bears’ point total was their highest since they scored 51 against Lane in 2014; it was the second-highest point total in the eight-year history of the SIAC Championship. Tuskegee scored 55 in the 2012 title game.
Miles appeared headed toward another cliffhanger of an ending through the first two quarters. The Bears led 20-17 at the half before breaking the game open in the third quarter with a pair of touchdowns. Smith had a pair of touchdown passes to Deion Tray Fagin in the quarter to increase the lead to 34-17, and the Golden Bears put the game away with a 16-point outburst in the fourth quarter,
Smith threw for 238 yards and a pair of touchdowns and running back Justin Hardy ran for 128 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries for Miles. Kellas Williams was the only offensive threat for Albany State (7-4). He ran for 101 yards, but only completed five of 11 passes for 61 yards.
Bowie State 30, Fayetteville State 10 – The Bulldogs cruised to their first CIAA championship behind senior quarterback Amir Hall’s record-setting performance. Hall tied a CIAA Championship Game record with three rushing touchdowns as he ran for 139 yards for the Bulldogs (9-2). He also passed for 180 yards and a touchdown.
Bowie State led 14-0 at the end of the first quarter after Hall scored on runs of 14 and six yards. He was 4-for-5 passing for 40 yards on the Bulldogs’ first scoring drive, which covered 87 yards in 13 plays and consumed nearly half of the quarter. Hall added an 80-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to boost Bowie State to a 21-3 lead at the half.
The Bulldogs put the game away in the third quarter on a 19-yard field goal by Gene Carson and Hall’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Daryl Jasper. Running back Stevie Green was the lone offensive bright spot for Fayetteville State (6-3) with 135 rushing yards on 19 carries.
Bethune-Cookman 25, North Carolina Central 22, 2OT – The Wildcats kept their championship hopes alive with a home victory in what was the equivalent of an MEAC championship race elimination game that was televised nationally televised by ESPNU. Bethune-Cookman (6-5, 4-2 MEAC) escaped with the victory when Tydarius Peters blocked Jonathan DeCucca’s 40-yard field goal attempt in the second overtime.
DeLucca had 40-yarder blocked on previous play but timeout before the ball was snapped canceled the play. North Carolina Central (4-5, 3-2) MEAC led throughout the contest. Bethune-Cookman sent the game into overtime tied 22-all on David Israel’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Keavon Mitchell with 53 seconds left in regulation. North Carolina Central’s Adam Lippy and Bethune-Cookman’s Uriel Hernandez matched field goals in the first overtime before Hernandez nailed a 21-yarder in the second overtime for the winning points.
Jackson State 20, Alabama State 2 – The Tigers are still in the hunt for the SWAC East championship after grinding out a road win in Montgomery, Ala. Jackson State (5-4, 4-2 SWAC) will face in-state rival Alcorn State, the four-time defending East champs, for division title Saturday in Lorman, Miss. Alabama State (3-6, 2-3 SWAC) entered the game against Jackson State needing a victory to stay in contention in the East.
But Hornets’ offense ground to halt as it only generated 180 total yards. Jackson State’s offense was only slightly more productive with 269 total yards. But it gave the Tigers just enough to get the win. Quarterback Jarrad Hayes connected with Keyshawn Harper for an 18-yard touchdown pass in the final minute the first half to give the Tigers 17-2 lead. Jackson State’s defense loaned a helping hand as Ryan Theyard intercepted a pass in the first quarter and returned it 19 yards for the Tigers’ first score.
Norfolk State 29, Howard 17 – Quarterback Juwan Carter upstaged Caylin Newton, his celebrated counterpart, as the Spartan snapped a four-game losing streak and eliminated the Bison from the MEAC championship race. Carter completed 233 of 35 pass attempts for 256 yards and three touchdowns for the Spartans (4-5, 2-4 MEAC) and connected with nine different receivers.
On the other, the Spartans held Newton, the 2017 MEAC Rookie of the Year and leading candidate for MEAC Offensive Player of the Year honors, to a season-low 129 passing yards and intercepted him twice. Newton only completed 10 of his 24 pass attempts. Howard (4-5, 4-3 MEAC) only gained 273 yards total offense.
South Carolina State 44, Florida A&M 21 – The Bulldogs exploded for their highest point total against an MEAC opponent since the 2016 season in a road win that doesn’t count in the conference standings. South Carolina State extended its winning streak to four consecutive games with the victory while Florida A&M (6-4, 5-1 MEAC), which is tied with North Carolina A&T atop the MEAC standings, suffered its second straight loss.
Florida A&M holds the tie-breaker over North Carolina A&T on the strength of its 22-21 win against the Aggies. South Carolina State is still in contention with two conference games remaining. Quarterback Tyrece Nick was a thorn in the Rattlers’ side the entire game. He rushed for 138 yards and three touchdowns. South Carolina State had 313 rushing yards.
North Carolina A&T 28, Savannah State 12
Southern 56, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 24
Chowan 47, Shaw 27
Virginia Union 60, Johnson C. Smith 6
Hampton 54, Mississippi Valley State 39
Jacksonville State 41, Tennessee State 14
Langston 33, Panhandle State 9
McKendree 50, Lincoln (Mo.) 32
Texas College 38, Lyon College 37
Webber International 37, Edward Waters 19
West Virginia State 45, West Virginia Wesleyan 25
- Shaw QB Keon Marsh completed 32 of 49 passes for 294 yards and four TDs.
- Southern QB Ladarius Skelton completed 12 of 15 passes for 283 yards and four TDs.
- Hampton QB Delmon Williams completed 17 of 31 passes for 231 yards and five TDs.
- Virginia Union QB Darius Taylor completed 13 of 27 passes for 226 yards and four TDs.
- Chowan RB Tyrell Freeman rushed for 195 yards and two TDs on 17 carries.
- Shaw WR Daniel Bender had 14 catches for 169 yards and three TDs.
- Morgan State RB Joshua Chase rushed for 145 yards and one TD on 18 carries.
- Hampton RB Raeshad Herriott rushed for 135 yards and one TD on 19 carries.
- Virginia Union RB Tabyus Taylor rushed for 128 yards on 23 carries.
- Hampton RB William Robinson rushed for 122 yards and 1 TD on 21 carries.
- North Carolina A&T State RB Marquell Cartwright rushed 117 yards and one TD on 11 carries.
Roscoe Nance is a veteran freelance sports journalist who has covered Black College Football throughout his 43-year career. He retired from USA TODAY after writing for the Nation’s Newspaper for 21 years, during which time he covered college sports, soccer, tennis and the NBA.
He has also written for The Columbus (Ga.) Enquirer and The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger. The Tuskegee (Institute) University graduate, who hails from Union Springs, Ala., was inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame in 2014 for his coverage of the conference during his time writing for The Clarion-Ledger.
He currently co-hosts the online sports talk show Express Yourself With T-Ramone And Sco with Atlanta sports journalist Tim Turner, and he is Chairman of the Black College Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee.
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