Golden Tigers drop Pioneer Bowl to Elizabeth City State
After playing three emotional games to win the SIAC West Division, the SIAC Championship and the Turkey Day Classic against some of the best competition that the Tuskegee University Football team (10-2 record) has faced all season, the Golden Tigers seemingly ran out of juice against Elizabeth City State University in the 14th Pioneer Bowl played inside A.J. McClung Stadium in Columbus, GA. After taking an early 6-0 lead, Tuskegee was pushed around by the Vikings (final record of 8-4) who recovered from a bad showing in the CIAA Championship Game against Winston-Salem State University to put up all 28 of their points in the second half to win 28-13.
While Tuskegee finishes the 2012 season as SIAC Champions for the first time since 2009, Tuskegee University running back Derrick Washington told AL.com that something looked amiss all week long during practice, with many of the players not vested into the game emotionally.
“I think that’s exactly what it was,” Washington said. "Some guys got up but not everybody did. I think we kind of got satisfied with winning that big game last week. We couldn't get back up this week. I could tell all week in practice something wasn't right. It came out and showed today."
Washington finished the final game of his career with 185 rushing yards, but the tide of the entire game turned on what looked to be a sure 63-yard touchdown run for the Raymore, Mo. native in the final game of his collegiate career. In the fourth quarter, Washington looked ready to stroll into his first score of the contest before Elizabeth City defensive back Josh Brooks came from behind and punched the ball out of Washington’s arm through the back side of the end zone. This gave Elizabeth City a touchback, and the subsequent drive would end with ECSU running back DaRonte McNeill punching in the second touchdown of the day for the Vikings.
"I slowed down. That's my fault," Washington said. "I think that was the big momentum swing in the game right there and that's all on me. I should've just sprinted to the end zone. I could've eased up and coasted and he came and popped it out right at the one. It was a good play."
Washington ran for 185 yards and was team MVP in a losing effort, but McNeill also had an impressive showing with 147 yards rushing and two touchdowns. The season ends one of the greatest campaigns by a TU running back of all-time, with Washington rushing for 1,679 yards to place him second all-time on the single-season school rushing list, 199 yards behind Bobby’s Wilson’s 2001 campaign in which he ran for 1,878 yards. A finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy, Washington was also named this season as Daktronics Offensive Player of the Year for Super Region 2.
After winning ten in a row, the Golden Tigers suffered their first loss since dropping their season opener to Alabama A&M 7-6 during Labor Day Kickoff Weekend in Birmingham. The 28 points put up by Elizabeth City were the most the Tuskegee defense had allowed all season, which ended up with an average allowance of 13.8 points per game.
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