PEMBROKE, NC – Winston-Salem State University struck first, but allowed 17 unanswered points, as the Rams dropped their season opener, 17-7 to the UNC Pembroke Braves at Grace P. Johnson Stadium in Pembroke, NC.
Played in front of a crowd of 7,357 standing room only fans on a hot and muggy night, the WSSU Rams would take the opening kick, and would use a solid mix of run and pass to navigate down the field on 10 plays covering 75 yards, as Rod Tinsley Jr would find an open Anthony Rook for a 12 yard scoring strike. Will Johnson would convert the PAT attempt to give WSSU an earl7 7-0 lead.
The UNC Pembroke Braves would answer in the second quarter, when Patrick O'Brien would find an open BJ Bunn for a 21 yard score to tie the game at 7-7.
The Braves Matt Davis would convert on a 24 yard field goal with 2:30 left before the half, capping a 15 play, 78 yard drive to take a 10-7 lead into halftime.
UNCP would take the second half kickoff and drive down the field for another score, this time a one yard run from Cliff Jones to take a commanding 17-7 lead early in the third quarter.
Winston-Salem State could not find any consistency on the offensive side of the ball to maintain any drives and found their three drives of the quarter ending with punts.
WSSU had one last chance late to put points on the scoreboard, but on 4th and 26, Tinsley's pass to Marcel Caver Jr. was overthrown, ending any chance the Rams had of making a late comeback.
UNCP outgained the Rams 280 to 235 on the night, and WSSU also shot itself in the foot with nine penalties for 80 yards.
Rod Tinsley Jr, getting his first collegiate start, finished 23 of 35 with one interception for 195 yards and one touchdown.
Marcel Caver Jr had eight catches to lead the Rams in receiving, racking up 90 yards on those receptions. Rashan Williams added four catches for 27 yards, and Anthony Rook and William Belcher had three catches each. Rook hauled in one touchdown catch and finished with 20 receiving yards while Belcher added 19 yards.
Defensively, the Rams were led by PJ Clyburn, who finished with a game high tying eight tackles, including one tackle for a loss. Kailan Chavis and Vernon Brandon each finished with six tackles and one pass breakup each. James Bullock and Michael Bloomfield each had five tackles, with Bullock also picking up ½ tackle for a loss, and Bloomfield added one sack and one tackle for a loss. Five different Ram players finished with three tackles each, and four Rams had two tackles apiece on the evening. Jarell Bright picked up a sack, and Demeeko Jones Jr had a fumble recovery on special teams for WSSU.
Will Johnson finished the night with a 37.4 yards per punt average on seven punts, with a long of 46 yards and dropping four punts inside the 20 yard line.
"We are disappointed, but this is just the first game. We are going to love up our guys, and get them ready for our next game. Valdosta State will be a tough opponent, so we have to regroup and get ready to play", said WSSU head coach, Kienus Boulware.
"We'll go back to work, and the games don't get any easier," Boulware said. "We have our toughest game coming up because it's our next game."
Winston-Salem State University will continue its early season road campaign, with a "home" game, as the Rams will take on powerhouse, Valdosta State, in the Cobb County Clash at McEachern High School. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 pm.