During Tuskegee University’s final regular season football game of the 2012 season, the Golden Tigers (9-1 overall and 7-0 in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) had every reason to panic and lose the game. TU had entered both the American Football Coaches’ Association and NCAA Division II Football polls for the first time all season at #23. But, the #15 ranked Golden Bears of Miles College were out looking for revenge from when they won the SIAC Championship last year and managed to lose by two points at TU’s 2011 Homecoming. Miles scored on the opening drive, and looked to extend their winning streak to nine on the season. Meanwhile, TU trailed in a football game for just the fourth time this season, as their own winning streak of seven games was in jeopardy.
|Cornerback Adam Lucas (8) returned
the game's only interception back
33 yards in TU's 27-17 victory over
But, a strong and solid effort by the reliable Golden Tigers’ defense kept Miles’ explosive offense in check, holding the Golden Bears (8-2 overall and 6-1 in conference play) to their lowest point total of the season in a 27-17 victory that sealed the SIAC West Division for Tuskegee. The ninth consecutive win this season guarantees a third trip to Atlanta, GA in 2012, with another trip to Lakewood Stadium for the 2012 SIAC Championship Game next week against a foe that they are also familiar with in Fort Valley State University. Earlier in the day in Columbus, GA, FVSU defeated Albany State 38-20 in the annual Fountain City Classic to claim the SIAC East Division.
The game will mark the first time in series history that Fort Valley (8-2 overall and 6-1 in conference) and Tuskegee have ever played against each other twice in a season. In Tuskegee’s second home game of the season played on Sept. 29, the Golden Tigers gained the second highest offensive total in school history with 671 yards of offense. Derrick Washington had a season-high 218 rushing yards, and TU defeated Fort Valley 49-18.
Like in the Fort Valley game, Washington also managed to rush for over 200 yards against Miles College. The senior transfer player from the University of Missouri averaged 9.5 yards per carry en route to 208 rushing yards. Even though he didn’t score a touchdown in the game, Tuskegee Coach Willie Slater praised his top offensive player for his efforts in the game.
“I thought it was great,” Slater said of the performance that made Washington just the tenth player in school history to join the 1,000-yard rushing club for TU running backs in a single season. “That’s always awesome. It’s always great to have a player like him. He is the first 1,000-yard back that we’ve had since I’ve been here, and he’s getting accustomed to playing the way that we need him to.”
The Golden Bears were able to accumulate 327 yards of total offense, but they couldn’t stop Tuskegee from moving the ball, with much of the help going to Washington. Tuskegee trailed 14-7, but managed to get a critical touchdown reception from Marquel Gardner to tie the game up at 14-14 with just 16 seconds remaining before halftime. The Golden Tigers were able to take their first and only lead with the initial drive of the second half, when Justin Nared was able to throw his second touchdown pass in as many drives on a 47-yard strike to Larry Cobb that went down the visitors’ side of Albert J. Sloan-Alumni Stadium.
“I thought that we moved the ball on them all day long,” Slater said. “Earlier in the first half, we managed to move the ball inside the ten-yard line. But, we messed up and ended up with a field goal attempt that we couldn’t convert.”
The vaunted TU defense managed to keep the Golden Tigers ahead when the Golden Bears went on a 20-play, 82-yard drive that lasted over eight minutes between the third and fourth quarters which only resulted in a field goal to reduce Tuskegee’s lead to 21-17. From there, TU went on an 85-yard drive of their own that also lasted over eight minutes on 14 plays, resulting in the game-winning touchdown by Nared on a one-yard quarterback sneak with 1:56 remaining in the game.
Slater said that the big drive by Miles in the second half was one of the biggest tests against his defense all season long.
“I don’t know if we ever got them in check,” Slater said. We have a ‘bend, but don’t break’ mentality. We had to adjust to the speed of their game, and that’s something that you can’t duplicate in practice.”
Tickets are available for the SIAC Championship Game at the Tuskegee University Business Office. You can also purchase tickets online at www.thesiactickets.com
. The game will be regionally televised on Comcast Sports Southeast at a time to be announced. This is the second time that TU will play inside Lakewood Stadium this season, as they defeated Johnson C. Smith University 35-17 in the inaugural Inner City Classic. Tuskegee leads the overall series against Fort Valley State 28-21-2. With a win, Tuskegee would earn its’ 26th SIAC Championship in football.
Kickoff time for the SIAC Championship Game will be at 8:00 p.m. Eastern/7:00 p.m. Central time.