Undefeated Langston ease past Tuskegee
TUSKEGEE, Ala. -- The Golden Tigers (0-1, 0-0 SIAC) were their own worst enemy in their season opener Saturday against Langston University (2-0) at Abbott Memorial Alumni Stadium.
Repeated mistakes – overthrown balls, dropped passes, turnovers and missed assignments – doomed them to a 33-19 defeat.
The defeat was a rarity for the Golden Tigers. It was the first time they have lost a home-opener since bowing to Morris Brown 24-3 in 1998, their first season-opening loss since dropping a 43-11decision to Miles in 2003 and just their second home loss since Coach Willie Slater took the helm in 2006.
“We had a number of things go wrong,’’ Slater said. “Offensively, we made many mistakes. But that is the way we practiced. We made a lot of mistakes in practice, and I am a firm believer that you play the way you practice. We just made fundamental mistakes that cannot be tolerated. We have got to get better or go in a different direction.’’
The Golden Tigers committed two turnovers, one of which – a lost fumble – was returned for a touchdown that gave Langston a 6-0 first-quarter lead, and they were 1-for-13 on third down conversions and 0-for-3 on fourth down conversions.
“We got a young team, and we played like a young team,’’ Slater said. “We learned a lot about ourselves. A lot of stuff we were telling them, they see for themselves now. Hopefully we will get better.’’
Things went bad early for the Golden Tigers. Quarterback Jeremy Williams’ second pass of the game was intercepted, and the junior from Tuscaloosa, Ala., never found his comfort zone during the remainder of the game, even though he threw two touchdown passes. Williams completed nine of 16 passes for 144 yards.
Terry Bradden, a transfer from Howard University who is still learning the Golden Tigers’ offense, replaced Williams in the second half, was 6-for-19, and threw for 43 yards.
“We played poorly at quarterback,’’ Slater said, adding that Bradden was victimized by three dropped passes. “I expected more out that position.’’
Slater said he was undecided whether he would play both quarterbacks going into the game because of Bradden’s unfamiliarity with the offense and in part, because Bradden hadn’t played well in recent practices.
“We’re limited in what we can do with Bradden,’’ said Slater, who said he stuck with Williams the entire first half because he didn’t want to hurt his confidence.
An ineffective running game compounded the Golden Tigers’ offensive woes. They only rushed for 53 yards on 25 attempts.
“We tried to do too much,’’ Slater said. “We were jacks-of-all-trades and masters of none.’’
Williams’ first touchdown pass, a 45-yard strike to Miles Robinson early in the second quarter, gave the Golden Tigers a 7-6 lead. Langston regained the lead, 13-7, on a 17-yard pass from Darrion Lewis to Darrow Barnes at 6:57 of the second quarter.
Williams then led the Golden Tigers on a four-play, 55-yard scoring drive that ended with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Wayne Williams, and they led 14-13 at the half.
Their advantage did not last long, however. Derrick Butler returned the second-half kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, giving Langston a lead that it never relinquished.
Eduardo Murillo booted a 45-yard field goal for the Tigers on their first possession of the fourth quarter to make the score 20-17. Langston matched that score with Lewis’ 37-yard touchdown pass to Kyron King.
The Lions scored their final touchdown on Jayce Boyd’s one-yard run with 56 second remaining in the game. Darrell Simmons blocked the extra point attempt, and Darius Darden returned the miss for two points for the Golden Tigers to provide the final score.
Slater said a bright spot for the Golden Tigers was the play of the offensive line, which featured two freshman starters, left tackle Matthew Reese and right guard Michael Thornton.
“Pass protection was good,’’ Slater said. “We had one break down late. Other than that, we had good protection. The quarterbacks were antsy in the pocket. They were watching the rush instead of looking down field.’’
The Golden Tigers return to action Saturday against Alabama A&M in Huntsville at 6:00 p.m..