WINSTON-SALEM, NC – The Winston-Salem State Rams (6-4, 4-3 CIAA) left it all on the field, but the effort was not quite enough when the team took a heartbreaking 23-22 Senior Day loss to the Fayetteville State Broncos (6-4, 5-2 CIAA), Saturday afternoon. After allowing Bronco touchdown with 30 seconds left to play, the Rams missed a 36-yard field goal in the final seconds to take the critical loss.
The Rams took the loss in spite of a great overall effort in the game. The Rams compiled 442 yards of total offense, including 235 passing yards in the game, but the team could not stop Fayetteville State, who scored 23 points despite being held to just 183 yards of offense. WSSU redshirt-junior quarterback Rod Tinsley led the way for the Rams when he completed 13-of-24 passes for 235 yards. Redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Quincy Jackson caught nine passes for 146 yards while sophomore running back Jahiz Linebarger rushed 23 times for 90 yards with two touchdowns. Defensively, junior defensive end Jack Nimmons led the way for the Rams with seven total tackles (three solo). Sophomore cornerback DeAndre Blevins recorded five total tackles (three solo) with an interception.
Things looked good for the Rams as the team controlled much of the first half. Fayetteville State scored on the opening drive of the game, but from there, things belonged to the Rams as Linebarger scored on an eight-yard touchdown run that capped a nine-play, 77-yard drive. The Rams missed the PAT kick to fall behind, 6-7. The Rams' defense and special teams controlled the remainder of the half as the Rams held the Broncos scoreless for the rest of the half while freshman kicker Daniel Rivera hit a 37-yard field goal with 13:00 left in the second quarter, followed by a 25-yard field goal with 7:10 left in the second quarter. From there, both teams would turn up their defensive efforts with both teams going scoreless and the Rams took their 12-7 lead into the locker room at halftime.
With the game seemingly in hand, the Rams continued to pull away from the Broncos with an impressive third quarter. Linebarger reached the endzone for the second time in the game when he rushed for a nine-yard touchdown run. The ensuing PAT kick left the Rams on top, 19-7 with 10:09 left in the third quarter. The Rams added to their lead later in the quarter when Rivera connected on his third field goal of the day. This time, he hit a 33-yard field goal to put the Rams on top, 22-7 with 2:24 left in the quarter.
From there, things got tough for the Rams as the team would not score again and could not stop a furious comeback by the Broncos. The Broncos first struck with the team returned a kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown. The Rams blocked the following PAT kick, but the WSSU lead was cut down to nine points, 22-13 with 2:10 left in the third quarter. Things continued to get tough for the Rams when the team allowed a 44-yard field goal by the Broncos with 9:51 left to play. The PAT kick left the Rams on top, 22-16. The Rams would continue to struggle offensively, but the team held Fayetteville State scoreless until the final minute of the game when the Broncos scored on a one-yard touchdown run with 30 seconds left the play.
Though things looked bleak, the Rams would not give in, however, as Tinsley connected with Jackson for a 47-yard pass that placed the Rams on the Fayetteville State one-yard line with eight seconds left. Unfortunately, the Rams were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and moved back to the 16-yard line. The Rams would run two more plays as Tinsley dropped back to the FSU 19-yard line to move to the center hash marker and set up a 36-yard field goal attempt by Rivera with four seconds left on the clock. Unfortunately, Rivera's field goal attempt sailed wide right as time ran out on the clock and ended the Rams' season with the 23-22 loss.
With the loss, the Rams fall to 6-4 overall and 4-3 in Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) play. More importantly, the Rams fall to 3-2 in CIAA Southern Division play and finish the season in third place in the division. With the win, Fayetteville State finishes the season with a 5-0 record in divisional play and claims the division title and a spot in next weekend's CIAA Football Championship game. The loss marked the Rams' first loss to the Broncos since 2004 and ends the team's streak of six straight CIAA Southern Division championships.
For more information on Rams football, contact the WSSU Office of Athletic Media Relations at (336) 750-2143 or log on to www.WSSURams.com.