SALISBURY — Winston-Salem State’s drive to the CIAA’s Southern Division title is alive and well. It's also within reach if the Rams take care of business over the final two weeks of the regular-season.
While the Rams easily won their third straight game with a 21-0 victory Saturday over Livingstone, it was the result of another CIAA game that had the Rams in great spirits. Fayetteville State, the two-time defending Southern Division champion, was upset 23-21 by St. Augustine’s, leaving the race for the division title wide open.
“We are still alive,” said safety Daryus Skinner, who had two interceptions to help the Rams’ defense play its best game of the season. “All we have ever wanted is a chance and now we have one, but we know we have to take care of business.”
The Rams (4-4, 3-2 CIAA) certainly took care of business in the second half against the Blue Bears (4-4, 1-4). Livingstone could muster only 174 yards of offense and had four turnovers.
Even though the Rams basically were sleepwalking in the first half, they got motivated just enough in the second half. WSSU's offense, other than a Quarderman Sloan 45-yard touchdown run, was nonexistent in the first half. The Rams held a 7-0 lead at halftime, but it felt like a lot more because of how dominant their defense was playing.
“The defense did well, and I won’t know just how well until I see the stats,” Coach Robert Massey of the Rams said. “I have to credit my coaching staff and support staff for having an outstanding game plan and the guys really responded, especially in the second half.”
The Rams had 227 yards of offense, but that included a season-low 51 passing yards from quarterbacks Dominique Graves and Miles Timmons. Backup quarterback Naill Ramadan did not make the trip to Salisbury due to a violation team rules, according to Massey. Ramadan, a graduate transfer from N.C. Central, had been playing more the last four games.
When the Rams got the ball for the first time in the second half, they scored on Graves' 29-yard touchdown pass to Quincy Jackson. What was unique about it was the Rams had a fourth-and-10 from the Blue Bears’ 29 and elected to go for the home run ball.
The touchdown gave the Rams a 14-0 lead, and in the fourth quarter they finished it off with a 66-yard interception return by Skinner. It was Skinner’s second interception of the game and his fifth of the season.
Skinner’s touchdown helped make it a 21-0 advantage, and the Blue Bears had nothing left.
Center Tyler Chambers of the Rams said the sideline picked up some energy in the fourth quarter because fans were keeping them posted about the St. Aug’s-Fayetteville State outcome. With about 10 minutes to go in the game, the St. Aug’s upset was official.
“Of course we're paying attention to what was going on in Fayetteville,” Chambers said. “I’m good friends with Stevie Green (a Fayetteville State running back), but now we can control our own destiny if we handle business the next two weeks.”
The Rams will play their final two games at home, starting with Saturday’s homecoming game against Shaw. WSSU will take on Fayetteville State at Bowman Gray Stadium on Nov. 9 in what could be a showdown for the Southern Division title and a berth in the CIAA Championship Game.
“It’s not over,” linebacker Kalen Allen said. “There’s more motivation now, so we have to go 1-0 every week and that’s our mentality.”
Right now, the Rams are playing their best football of the season. The defense held the Blue Bears to minus-26 rushing yards as Allen, linebacker Ta’Shaun Taylor and several defensive linemen were all over the field. Yakima Bell and Karron Jeter each were credited with two sacks.
“It’s got to be our best defensive game,” said Allen, who had 10 tackles to lead the Rams. “We are getting better and better each week and it shows on the field. All of the guys have bought into what he coaches are asking us to do and that’s why we were so dominant today.”
Massey said there's obviously new life for his team with the loss by the Broncos opening up the division title race.
“It gives us some hope, but by no means do we have a clear shot at this division,” Massey said. “We have to keep them grounded and keep working to get where we want to be.”
WSSU 7 0 7 0 - 21
Livingstone 0 0 0 0 - 0
W – Sloan 45 run (Buenaventura kick)
W – Jackson 29 pass from Graves (Buenaventura kick)
W – Skinner 66 interception return (Buenaventura kick)
A – 1,437