Late field-goal trouble dooms Golden Tigers
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – In a low scoring defensive struggle, the 2012 campaign for the Tuskegee Golden Tigers got off to an anti-climactic start Saturday night at Legion Field. Two of three TU field goal attempts were blocked in the fourth quarter. The botched attempts were the catalyst that allowed Alabama A&M to grind out a season-opening 7-6 victory before 21,400 in attendance for the evening game on the first day of Labor Day Kickoff Weekend in the Magic City.
Senior TU kicker Eduardo Murillo, a native of Montgomery, Ala., was responsible for all of Tuskegee’s points, as a 20-yard field goal late in the first quarter and a 35-yard attempt to begin the fourth quarter kept the Golden Tigers in the contest during the final 15 minutes. But, the latter two kick attempts (including a last-ditch effort as the final seconds of the game ticked off the clock) were blocked by Alabama A&M, securing the victory for a program that is coming off playing in the 2011 Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Championship Game.
Tuskegee Head Football Coach Willie Slater said that while the kicking game wasn’t where he wanted it to be, he was impressed with TU’s starting field position during much of the game as compared to Alabama A&M’s.
“We did have a problem with the field goals, although on kickoff coverage, we didn’t let them get outside of the 25-yard line,” Slater said of the kickoff average. “Almost every time we got the ball back, we were able to start the drives outside of the 30-yard line.”
Slater placed much of the responsibility on himself for the one-point loss, even though quarterback Rashard Burkette completed just seven pass attempts (7-of-23) during the game for 130 yards.
“[Alabama A&M] has a good team with good defensive linemen,” Slater said. “He [Burkette] had a couple of cases where he had happy feet and was a bit antsy. But, I think our pass protection was good for the most part.”
Saturday night’s game also marked the debut of senior tailback Derrick Washington, who transferred from the University of Missouri. Washington had 68 rushing yards on 16 carries, but had his longest carry of the night negated by offsetting personal fouls in the second quarter. Before the penalties were called, Washington ripped off a 47-yard run down to the Alabama A&M 30-yard line, and the Golden Tigers were poised to extend what was a 3-0 lead at the time.
“I have a hard time understanding why there were two penalties in that situation,” Slater said of the result after the run. “I really thought that was a play we earned, but I don’t think that the run would have shifted momentum either way at that point.”
Alabama A&M’s Montauriu Smith caught a five-yard pass from Deaunte Mason for the game’s only touchdown of the night on Saturday.
Up next for Tuskegee is a game against Johnson C. Smith University this Saturday in Atlanta, Ga. for the 1st Annual Inner-City Classic at Lakewood Stadium. The Golden Bulls are coming off a disappointing loss of their own, as they dropped a 34-31 decision to West Virginia State University. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. EST/6:30 p.m. CST.
© 2012 Tuskegee University