ATLANTA, GA – In the inaugural Inner City Classic at Lakewood Stadium on Saturday night, Johnson C. Smith and Tuskegee were locked in a fierce battle, with the Golden Bulls leading the Golden Tigers 17-13 at halftime. Three lead changes occurred in the first thirty minutes of the game, and it looked like either team could pull away with the victory at the intermission.
But, Coach Willie Slater had other ideas. After not getting what he wanted out of his passing game, he decided to give the pigskin to senior tailback Derrick Washington, a transfer from the University of Missouri. Within a span of a few carries, Washington was able to score his second touchdown of the game in the third quarter, and would prove to be the primary difference in Tuskegee’s 35-17 victory.
Washington was honored as MVP of the Inner City Classic, as he finished the game with 17 carries for 155 yards rushing. Slater said that he thought Washington started the game off slowly, even though he did manage to punch in the Golden Tigers’ first touchdown of the night with just over two minutes remaining in the opening quarter. At that point, Tuskegee cut into Johnson C. Smith’s lead at 10-7.
“He had missed a couple of cuts upfield early,” Slater said. “But, when he gets going, he is hard to stop.”
Slater also said that the Tuskegee defense was sharper in the second half because they played in man-to-man coverage as opposed to playing zone, which was their primary strategy in the first half.
“We were jumping routes, instead of staying in our area,” Slater said. “The one thing that we were able to change was the fact that our guys stayed where they were supposed to be and remained patient.”
With the defense playing sound fundamentally, Washington was able to break the game open with his two biggest runs of the night on consecutive carries in the third quarter. From midfield, the senior broke for a 29-yard carry down to the 21-yard line, and finished the drive off. Tuskegee seized the lead with a 20-17 advantage, and would pull away in the fourth quarter with two additional rushing touchdowns from Michael J. Thornton.
This Saturday, the Golden Tigers play their first home contest of the 2012 season, as they host Lane College in a conference contest between two teams representing the West Division of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC). The Dragons are also coming off of their first win of the 2012 season, as quarterback Chris Rini threw for 107 yards and three touchdowns in their 45-28 victory over Edward Waters College.
Slater said that he expects the defense of the Dragons to be big and physical, and that the only way to counter that would be to have a better performance in the passing game.
“They’re big, and they run well on defense,” Slater said. “We got our work cut out for us on the defensive end. I still think that we need to get better in all areas, but we have the most to improve in the passing game. We have to keep our defense off the field more often, as this is the second week our opponent has had more first downs than we had.” (Last week, Johnson C. Smith had 17 first downs, while Tuskegee had 16.)
The game against Lane College is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.