PEMBROKE, N.C. - #5 Winston-Salem State could not overcome the sloppy play late in the game and saw their 20 game regular season win streak come to an end, as the Rams fell 25-21 to the University of North Carolina Pembroke Braves on Thursday night in front of a national television audience on the CBS Sports Network.
Neither team would be able to get anything going on their first drives, but the UNP Braves were able to return the Rams punt deep into WSSU territory on their series. But the WSSU Rams defense would prove itself early, holding the Braves out of the endzone on four straight plays inside the five yard line.
After turning the ball over on down to WSSU, the Rams first mistake would prove costly as Ricky Burns II would be caught behind the line of scrimmage and stopped for a safety give UNCP the early 2-0 lead.
WSSU special teams would once again haunt the team, as the ensuing kickoff would be returned 69 yards giving the Braves prime field position once again early in the contest.
Although the defense would hold once again, the Braves would convert on a short field goal to push their lead to 5-0 over the Rams.
Winston-Salem State would counter in the second quarter and had an excellent opportunity to get on the scoreboard early in the quarter after driving deep into Pembroke territory. But an incomplete pass on fourth down from the UNCP 10 yard, stalled another drive.
UNCP would go on a long drive on their next possession, covering 90 yards in 15 plays and ended with a one yard rushing touchdown to extend their advantage to 12-0.
The Rams would finally crack the scoring column on their final possession of the first half as they marched 78 yards down the field in 16 plays, and capped the drive off with a two yard scoring pass from Anthony Carrothers to Tehvyn Brantley. Will Johnson's PAT cut the lead to 12-7 heading into the locker room at the half.
WSSU would receive to start the second half, and would take full advantage coming out of the locker room. It didn't take long, as Carrotheres moved the Rms quickly down the field with back to back big passes to freshman Chase Powell, and completions to Shane Blue and Graham Love. Maurice Lewis capped off the drive with a scoring run from three yards out to give the Rams their first lead of the game at 14-12.
After a quick three and out for the Braves, WSSU would once again move the ball deep into the Braves end of the field, but eh drive stalled and the Rams field goal attempt from 35 yards out sailed wide right.
But the Rams defense, kept the pressure on UNCP and on second down, WSSU's Donnie Owens would sack the quarterback and force a fumble that was recovered by John Rizor giving WSSU the ball on the UNCP 32.
Back to back passes from Carrothers to Shane Blue and Tehvyn Brantley moved Winston-Salem State to the UNCP six yard line. Then Maurice Lewis would find the endzone for the second time, tis time from six yard out to push the Rams lead to 21-12.
The WSSU would come up big once again as Larry Hearne would pick off the Braves deep in the Rams end of the field.
But on the next play Carrothers pass would be picked off and returned for a score cutting WSSU's lead to 21-19 heading into the final quarter.
UNCP would push their lead to 22-21 on a 22 yard field goal with 14:14 to play, putting the Rams on their heels in the hostile record setting crowd at UNCP's Grace P. Johnson Stadium.
WSSU would have opportunities in the fourth quarter to move the ball and get in position to win the game, but turnovers, a fumble and late interception would seal the loss for the Rams.
Offensively, WSSU was led by Anthony Carrothers with 64 rushing yards on 13 carries, while Maurice Lewis rushed 12 times for 29 yards and two touchdowns. Patrick Mputu had five carries for 11 yards.
Carrothers finished the evening going 24 of 40 for 254 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Chase Powell led the Rams receivers with six catches for 63 yards, while Shane Blue finished with five catches for 67 yards. Tehvyn Brantley had four catches for 39 yards and one touchdown, while Graham Love (34 yards), Eric Wolff (28 yards), Eric Williams (18 yards) and Patrick Mputu (2 yards) each finished with two catches each.
Defensively, Carlos Fields led the Rams with a game high 11 tackles and one and a half tackles for a loss, while Donnie Owens finished with seven tackles, two sacks, one tackle for loss, one pass deflection and one forced fumble. Larry Hearne recorded four tackles, one tackle for a loss and one interception, while Danny Bunn had four tackles and a fumble recovery. Michael Bloomfield had four tackles, a half a tackle for a loss and one pass deflection, and Duvontae Covington also finished with four tackles.
Winston-Salem State will play their home opener next week, as the Rams host Virginia University of Lynchburg at 6:30 p.m. at Bowman Gray Stadium.