It wasn't pretty, but it was a win.
WSSU's Larry Hearne knocked down a Luke Charles desperation pass in the final seconds as #9 ranked Winston-Salem State University held on for a 28-23 win over the Braves of the University of North Carolina-Pembroke on Saturday night.
Winston-Salem State would open the scoring late in the first quarter, when the Rams would go on a 12-play, 77-yard drive capped off by a Maurice Lewis eight yard run. The big play of the drive was a 21-yard rush by quarterback, Kameron Smith on 3rd down and nine.
UNC-Pembroke would answer back with a scoring drive of their own in the second quarter, after forcing the Rams into a turnover. WSSU's Kameron Smith was pressured and fumbled, deep in their own territory.
Three plays later, the Braves Luke Charles would hook up with Te'vell Williams from 10 yards out to tie the game a 7-7 with 5:55 to play before the half.
On their next possession, WSSU would once again march right down the field, this time on another long 10-play, 83-yard drive, that finished with Kameron Smith finding Tehvyn Brantley from 21-yards out to push the Rams back in front 14-7 with 1:29 left before the half.
But UNC-Pembroke was not done, marching into field goal range, where kicker Conner Haksins 43-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, moved the Braves to within four points, at 14-10 at the half.
After a lively halftime talk with his Rams football team, coach Maynor's WSSU team was set to receive the second half kickoff. Newcomer Bryce Sherman, took the kickoff and returned it 77 yards, putting the Rams in prime position to strike early in the third quarter.
It took just five plays as, Kameron Smith dove into the endzone from one yard out to push the WSSU lead back to 11 at 21-10.
But the UNCP Braves answered three possessions later when running back Damonte Terry capped off a 9-play, 56-yard scoring drive with a seven yard scoring run pulling the visitors to within five at 21-16 heading into the final quarter.
WSSU's Maurice Lewis gave the Rams a comfortable 28-16 lead with a 4-yard touchdown run with 4:06 left to play, but the Braves quickly answered with a 6-play, 75-yard scoring drive that was culminated with a Luke Charles 28-yard touchdown pass to Williams.
"They did an excellent job game-planning against our defense and they scored more points than we would have liked," Maynor said.
"I told them to back up and knock the ball down and don't try and pick it off," Maynor said. "We just told them to be smart and get back there and knock it down and Larry (IHearne) did that."
"It was the first game of the season and you know you are going to have a lot of mistakes," Maynor said. "You need to learn from your new team what their strengths and weaknesses are and then we have to go back and get better for next week."
Offensively for the Rams, Maurice Lewis finished with a game-high 134 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 27 carries. Kameron Smith rushed 11 times for 44 yards and a touchdown. Smith also passed for 190 yards on 15 of 22 passing with one touchdown.
Jamal Williams led the Rams receiving corps with five catches for 103 yards. Tehvyn Brantley had three catches for 34 yards, while Everette Proctor had two catches for 16 yards, and Ricky Rozier, Bryce Sherman, Juhuann Butler, Jamie DeGeare and Eric Wolff each had one pass reception.
Defensively, Carlos Fields had nine tackles, one pass breakup and one quarterback hurry, while Malcolm Rowe finished with eight tackles. Darryl Pulliam and Khendra Reid each had seven tackles with Pulliam adding in a pass breakup. Daniel Mungin had six tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss, while Dominque Tate also adding in six tackles. Justin Wilkerson added five tackles, one sack and a tackle for loss while Larry Hearne added five tackles two interceptions and the pass breakup to sealed the win for WSSU.
For the Braves, Te'vell Williams hauled in eight catches for 127 yards and a pair of touchdowns to pace UNCP, who also got 94 rushing yards on 17 carries and a third quarter score from Damonte Terry. Luke Charles threw for 281 yards on 32-of-46 passing with two touchdowns.
The Winston-Salem State University Rams will hit the road for a non-conference game against the Concord University Mountain Lions in Athens, WV next Saturday afternoon.