ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. – The Winston-Salem State University Rams jumped out to a 10-3 halftime lead, and held off the late charging Elizabeth City State Vikings, to win the 18th Down East Viking Football classic, 17-10, in Rocky Mount, N.C.
With the win, WSSU picks up their first win of the season and moves to 1-3 overall and 1-0 in the CIAA, while the ECSU Vikings fall to 2-1 overall and 0-1 in the CIAA.
The Rams got an emotional boost in pregame, when their fallen team mate, Marquise Gaddy, addressed the team via facetime on an IPad. His message was simple – "play like it's the last time you ever get on the field, I love you guys!"
With tears streaming down the faces of coaches and players, and the media relations director, the team exploded with emotion from the locker room looking to break the three game losing streak to start the season.
Elizabeth City State however, got on the scoreboard first, when Jeff Flores connected on a 42 yard field goal with 2:40 left in the first quarter, to give the Vikings the early 3-0 lead.
But the WSSU Rams had other plans for the Down East Viking Football Classic, when they would tie the game at 3-3 on a Will Johnson 31 yard field goal with 12:26 on the clock in the second quarter.
Winston-Salem State would reach the end zone before the half, when on third down, Rashad Cooper would scramble left and find a wide open William Belcher on the left side, who would make one move to the inside, before darting across the goal line for a 40 yards scoring strike to put the Rams up 10-3 heading into the half.
The Winston-Salem State University Rams would increase their lead late in the third quarter, when Rashad Cooper would find Rashan Williams down the left side for another score. Williams would make a brilliant catch, out jumping and then wrestling the ball away from the defender in the air for the touchdown. Will Johnson would convert the PAT to give WSSU a 17-3 advantage.
The Elizabeth City State Vikings would score a rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter pulling them to within a touchdown, 17-10, with 2:32 left to play.
But the failed onside kick, recovered by Marcel Caver, would allow the Rams to virtually run out the clock.
The Rams would punt with 12 seconds remaining, and would tackle the returner as time ticked off the clock, securing the WSSU Rams first win of the season.
Rashad Cooper, getting his first collegiate start, finished the day 10 of 23 with three interceptions for 199 yards and two touchdown passes.
Tyree Massey led the WSSUS Rushing attack with 15 carries for 26 yards, while Xavier Quick finished with seven rushes for 19 yards, and Bronson Greene had 17 yards on five carries. Rashad Cooper had 10 carries for 10 yards.
Will Johnson had another solid afternoon, going 1 of 2 on field goals, and finishing the day with a 36.8 yards per punt average, on six punts. He also had three touchbacks on four kickoffs.
Defensively, Kailan Chavis led the Rams with seven tackles, four solo, and 0.5 tackle for a loss. Phillip Williamson continued his dominate play, finishing with six solo tackles, four tackles for losses and one sack. James Bullock, Vernon Brandon and Jaitavius Jackson each had four tackles, with Bullock picking up his first interception, Brandon picking up a pass breakup and Jackson picking up 0.5 sack. CJ Washington, Brandon Dixon, Michael Douglas and Jarell Bright each had three tackles, with Bright also picking up a tackles for a loss. Tyron Roberts also had a sack, and Amyl Smith and Michael Bloomfield each had 0.5 sack. Aaron Johnson also had an interception for the WSSU Rams.
After a month on the road to begin the 2015 season, WSSU will finally get to play in Bowman Gray Stadium this week, as the Rams will host the hot Chowan Hawks, on HORN$ Appreciation and Football Alumni Weekend. Kickoff is slated for 1:30 p.m.