WINSTON-SALEM, NC – Winston-Salem State University got two long touchdown passes from quarterback Kameron Smith to wide receiver Jameze Massey, while running back Nicholas Cooper, rushed for 132 yards and one score and the Rams' defense stymied the New Haven Charger offense enroute to a 27-7 win in the NCAA DII Quarterfinals at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC.
Winston-Salem State moves to 13-0, and under second-year head coach Connell Maynor, now advance to the national semifinals where they will host Wayne State University with a trip to the NCAA Div. II championship game on Dec. 17 in Florence, Alabama on the line. The New Haven Chargers fall to 11-2 and end their season.
New Haven would win the toss and the Rams defense would hold after one first down, and force a punt.
WSSU would march 68 yards in eight plays, capped by Jameze Massey breaking behind the3 Charger defense hauling in a 48-yard pass from quarterback Kameron Smith. Alejandro Suarez's PAT attempt sailed wide right, but the Rams took and early 6-0 lead.
New Haven answered on the ensuing possession going 57 yards in five plays and scoring on Ryan Osiecki's 36-yard scoring pass to Demetrius Washington. After the PAT, the Chargers led 7-6 but it was the last time they would see the endzone.
The Rams would move on the next series, but on fourth and two, Kameron Smith was sacked the WSSU would turn it over on downs.
The three plays late the WSSU defense would come up big with a Darryl Pulliam interception, thwarting the New Haven Drive.
WSSU would be forced to punt on the series, but this time the Rams' special team would step up and a Landen Thayer punt, New Haven would muff the punt on Rodney Taylor's tackle, and Rashad Shaw would pounce on the ball for the Rams.
Two plays later on the first play on the second quarter, Nicholas Cooper's 12-yard run and the ensuing PAT gave the Rams a 13-7 lead they would never relinquish.
Winston-Salem State would take a 13-7 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Coming out in the second half neither team would be able to find a rhythm offensively, and following a scoreless third quarter, WSSU would hit paydirt early in the fourth quarter on an incredible throw and catch from 33-yards from Smith to Massey for a touchdown, pushing WSSU's lead to 20-7. Pinned against the sideline in the end zone, Massey hauled in Smith's pinpoint pass while sliding out of bounds.
The New Haven Chargers would eventually late in the game, move down the field deep into Ram territory, but Carlos Fields would step in front of a pass on the one yard, ending the Chargers hopes.
Nicholas Cooper would get loose once again for a 72-yard run, before being stopped from behind on the one yard line. Cedric Hickman would score from one yard out, sealing the Rams victory at 27-7.
Offensively for WSSU, Nicholas Cooper rushed for 138 yards on just 14 carries and one touchdown, while Kameron Smith passed for 274 yards and touchdowns with one interception.
Jameze Massey finished with six receptions for 138 yards and the two scores, and Jamal Williams hauled in four catches for 40 yards. Juahuann Butler, Tehvyn Brantley, Brandon Akinbiyi and Nicholas Cooper each hauled in two passes each.
Carlos Fields led the WSSU defense with seven tackles, five solos, and also got one of the Rams three picks. Jonathan Setzer finished with six tackles, and Akeem Ward had five tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1.5 tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries. Jermaine Kesler, Barry Tripp and Casey Davenport each had .5 sacks. Darryl Pulliam and Brian Williams also had interceptions.
Winston-Salem State will face Wayne State, a 31-25 winner over Minnesota-Duluth in another quarterfinal game. The Rams, who got theirs and the CIAA's first NCAA playoff win since 1993 in a second round win over California (Pa.), now becomes the first CIAA team to ever advance to the national semifinals. Among HBCU's, Central State in 1986 under head coach Billy Joe was the last team to make the national semis.
With a win Saturday, it would be the Rams' first trip to the championship game and the first ever for a CIAA team.
Game time is to be determined. Be sure to visit WSSURams.com for the game time and all of the particulars for next week's NCAA DII National Semi Finals.
The game will be televised on ESPN2 and simulcast on ESPN3.com.