Stillman defeats Tuskegee in first conference game
TUSKEGEE, Ala. – It was the same story, just a different chapter Saturday for the Golden Tigers as they suffered a 13-9 SIAC West Division loss to Stillman at Abbott Memorial Alumni Stadium.
The Golden Tigers haven’t scored more than 19 points in a game this season, and they have yet to produce more than 240 yards in a contest after only generating 203 against Stillman.
“We have a number of problems,’’ said Coach Willie Slater, who is in the throes of the longest losing streak of his career. “We’re not making plays.’’
With the defeat, the Golden Tigers are 0-3 for first time since 1995 when they began the season 0-7 en route to a 2-9 record under Haney Catchings. The Golden Tigers had been unbeaten against Stillman, which revived its football program in 1999 and joined the SIAC in 2005, having won all six of the previous games in the series.
The victory improved Stillman’s record to 3-1 and 2-0 in the SIAC, which puts them in first place in the West Division.
Freshman quarterback Justin Nared, who played the final series against Alabama A&M last week, made his first career start for the Golden Tigers, who have started three different signal callers in as many games. Nared was 6-for-15 for 59 yards and rushed for 17 yards.
“He still made some mistakes,’’ Slater said. “However, I think we’re better with him.’’
The Golden Tigers trailed 6-0 in the second period after Stillman kicked a pair of field goals. Nared’s one-yard touchdown run with two minutes left in the first half put the Golden Tigers ahead 7-6.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Golden Tigers took a 9-6 lead when Aaron Bennett tackled Stillman running back Deondrae Holley in the end zone for a one-yard loss on the first play of the fourth period. Stewart Moody set up the score with a 44-yard punt that pinned Stillman on its one-yard line.
The Golden Tigers weren’t able to make the lead stand up, however.
The offense failed to sustain a drive following the ensuing free kick, setting the table for Stillman to take the lead.. Stillman drove 77 yards in 11 plays, and chewed up nearly half of the quarter in the process, to take the lead. Quarterback Brandon Allen scored the go-ahead touchdown on a one-yard run.
“You can’t give up a touchdown late in the game like that,’’ Slater said, adding that the Golden Tigers played well enough to win for three quarters.’’ We don’t mind winning 9-6. We made some tactical mistakes.’’
Allen hurt the Golden Tigers repeatedly during the drive with his running and passing. He gained 16 yards and a first down on a third-and-10 play, and he picked up nine yards and another first down on second-and-seven. Allen also completed all four of his pass attempts for 40 yards on the drive.
“We lost containment (on the pass rush) and let the quarterback run,’’ Slater said. “We have a tendency to do that. We did that a couple of times.’’
On their next possession, the Golden Tigers put together one of their better drives of the game, and appeared to be in position to regain the lead. Nared engineered a seven-play, 60-yard that took three minutes, 45 seconds off the clock and moved the ball from the Golden Tigers’ 21 to Stillman’s 29. But on first down, running back Byron Key fumbled the ball and Stillman recovered it at the 19 with 1:45 remaining in the game, sealing the Golden Tigers’ fate.
One bright spot for the Golden Tigers was the running game, which showed signs of life for the first time this season. They ran for 144 yards, more than double their production of the 107 they gained in the first two games combined (53 against Langston and 54 against Alabama A&M).
“We did some things better,’’ Slater said. “But we’re still struggling in the passing. That’s complicated more with penalties.’’
The Golden Tigers were penalized eight times for 51 yards, many of which came at the most inopportune time. They were called for a false start on first-and-10 at Stillman’s 25-yard line on their first possession of the third period. The penalty effectively killed a 12-play, 44-yard drive, and they eventually punted.
The Golden Tigers were hounded by physical mistakes as well. Punt returner Mark Hughes allowed the ball to hit him in the head when he tried to field a kick at his 25-yard line in the first period. Stillman recovered the loose ball and converted the turnover into a field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Golden Tigers return men also had trouble fielding kickoffs as they dropped the ball several times.
“We’re frustrated,’’ Slater said. “We’re making mistakes that we shouldn’t make. What’s most frustrating is who’s making the mistakes. Young guys, you know they’re going to make mistakes; I’m upset with the older guys. A lot of things are happening that happen to teams that don’t have confidence. We have to work to get our confidence back.’’
The Golden Tigers return to action on Saturday in an SIAC contest at Fort Valley (Ga.) State (6:00 p.m. ET).