Golden Tigers fall short in Tuskegee-Morehouse Classic
COLUMBUS, Ga. – The Golden Tigers’ domination of the Tuskegee-Morehouse Football Classic came to a disappointing end Saturday as the Maroon Tigers scored a 17-14 victory.
The Golden Tigers, who entered the game with a 66-27-7 edge in the overall series, which began in 1902, and a 51-19-5 edge in the Classic after winning 13 of the 15 previous meetings against their SIAC rival, squandered a 14-point second-quarter lead. The loss ended a seven-game winning streak for the Golden Tigers (1-4, 0-1 SIAC West Division) against Morehouse (5-1, 1-0 SIAC East Division).
The Golden Tigers continue to be off to their worst start since 1995 when they began the season 0-7 and finished 2-9. Their four losses this season have been by a total of 33 points.
“We played better this week,’’ Coach Willie Slater said, “but we just didn’t finish, and that has hurt us all season.’’
Freshman quarterback Justin Nared. who was named Tuskegee's MVP in the game, scored on a pair of touchdown runs, a 16-yard scamper in the first period and a 10-yard dash in the second quarter, to give the Golden Tigers a 14-0 lead.
At that point, it seemed that the 76th Tuskegee-Morehouse Classic was destined to end like so many of the other contests in this series – that being another victory for the Golden Tigers. However, the Maroon Tigers got a new life on their final possession of the half.
They got the ball with 2:13 at the Golden Tigers’ 39, following Stewart Moody’s 38-yard punt and a nine-yard return. Three plays later, David Carter, No. 7 in rushing in NCAA Division II and No. 1 in the SIAC, scored on a 20-yard run with 1:15 left in the half.
Morehouse seized the momentum in the second half and came away with the victory.
“That was a big drive,’’ Slater said. “If we could have come out with less than a touchdown, that would have been good. But I thought our lack of execution in the second half was the big thing. We didn’t make plays. They made some adjustments, but we did not make plays. When we had to tackle the guy, we didn’t do that. When we needed first downs, we didn’t make them.’’
Morehouse took control of the game in the third period, even though the Golden Tigers were able to maintain the lead. Moody’s 31-yard punt put the Maroon Tigers in a hole at their three-yard line. However, they dug themselves out with a 17-play, 87-yard drive, but it only netted a field goal that made the score 14-10 going into the fourth quarter.
Morehouse took the lead midway through the fourth period on a nine-play 50-yard scoring drive. The Maroon Tigers only threw one pass on the drive, which ended with quarterback Byron Ingram scoring on a two-yard run.
“They weren’t doing anything fancy,’’ Slater said of Morehouse’s offensive plan. “Basically, they ran one play. They did a good job with it.’’
Morehouse rushed for 144 yards, 87 below its season average, and 3.3 yards a carry; Carter gained 99 yards on the ground, 38 under his per-game average. It was the first time this season Carter failed to rush for 100 yards.
“Until the fourth quarter, we did a good job,’’ Slater said.
The Golden Tigers had an opportunity to regain the lead in the final minutes. They got the ball at their 27 after stopping Carter for a three-yard loss on a fourth-and-two play with 2:20 left in the game.
The Golden Tigers picked up one first down before they gave the ball back to Morehouse on an interception that bounced off the intended receiver.
“We still have problems throwing the ball down field,’’ Slater said. “It’s a combination of reading routes and getting the ball out of your hand, and we had some catchable balls that we just didn’t catch. That last interception was catchable. It hit him in the breadbasket and bounced out.’’
The Golden Tigers only produced 181 yards total offense, 72 passing and 109 running the ball. Slater said that his team’s offensive deficiencies had an adverse effect on the defense, and that enabled Morehouse to take over the game.
“If we could have kept a drive going, put points on board, field goal anything….’’ Slater said. “A good ball control offense produces good defense. We’re still struggling to be a good ball control offense. We have protection problems and problems hitting intermediate passes. I know what the problem is. The only thing that solves it is experience and time.’’
The Golden Tigers will travel to Jackson, Tenn., this weekend, to face the Dragons of Lane College at Lane Field at 2:00 p.m. CST.