Back on Top: Will Johnson Kicks Rams To CIAA Title

DURHAM, N.C. – Winston-Salem State's Will Johnson kicked a 23-yard field goal with two second remaining, as the Rams completed a late comeback, to take a 17-14 win over Bowie State in the CIAA Championship Game at Durham County Stadium Saturday afternoon.

With the win the Rams complete the season at 6-5 overall and capture the school's 11th CIAA Football Championship, and third in the past five years.

A scoreless first quarter, State got on the scoreboard first after a 20 play, 86 yard drive, when Nyema Washington crossed the goal line on a one yard run to give the Bulldogs the early 7-0 lead.

With the WSSU offense struggling, Bowie State would take advantage, and late in the second quarter, they would strike again, on 64 yard pass from Washington to Kerrick Pollock to push the Bulldogs out in front 14-0 with just 1:19 left before halftime.

Winston-Salem State's Reggie Wilkins returned the kickoff 22 yards to set up the Rams in the final minute of the first half.

One the first play, Rod Tinsley Jr found an open Rashan Williams for a 44 yard gain, and two plays later Tinsley found Williams again for a 21 yard gain, down to the BSU eight yard line. Three plays later Tyree Massey would score a big touchdown for WSSU with eight second left before halftime, to cut Bowie State's lead to 14-7 heading into halftime.

After a scoreless third quarter, only 15 minutes stood between the Rams dropping their second straight championship game or ascending back to the top of the CIAA.

A quick series by WSSU that would stall, punter Will Johnson then dropped a gem, a 54 yard punt that was downed by the Rams at the Bowie State eight yard line.

The WSSU defense continued its dominate second half play, and forced a quick three and out. The Bowie State punt would be short and downed at their own 45 yard line, giving the Rams prime field position with a little over nine minutes remaining.

One the first play of the drive, Rod Tinsley Jr dropped back and found a crossing Reggie Wilkins for a 25 yard pick up down to the Bowie State 20. On the next play Tinsley would find Wilkins on a fade route to the right corner for a touchdown. With the PAT by Will Johnson, the Rams had come all the way to tie the game with 8:39 left to play.

Bowie State would have one last opportunity to secure its first ever championship, and their drive would start at their own 12 yard line. On a third and 11, the Bulldogs got a big 21 yard pass and catch for a first down. But the WSSU defense would rise tall one last time, and on third and seven, Michael Bloomfield picked up his biggest of four sacks on the day, forcing a punt by Bowie State.

With 5:35 on the clock, the Rams methodically marched down the field, highlighted by two big runs from Tyree Massey. Massey converted a third and 10, picking up 21 yards down to the BSU 26 and later converted another third and 10, gaining 11 yards down to the BSU 2, setting up a historic championship finish.

It would all come down to one play and three simple concepts:  Snap, Hold, Kick.

And with two seconds remaining, Will Johnson would convert the 23 yard field goal, giving the WSSU Rams the improbable 2015 CIAA Football Championship.

For the afternoon WSSU accounted for 321 yards of offense (146 rushing, 175 passing), while holding the top ranked Bulldogs to 291 yards (82 rushing, 209 passing). Each team turned it over once.

Rod Tinsley Jr was named MVP for the CIAA Champion Rams.

Tyree Massey led the Rams rushing offense, with 20 carries for 69 yards and one touchdown. Xavier Quick added four carries for 45 yards, and Rod Tinsley Jr had 12 carries for 32 yards.

Tinsley Jr was 15 of 27 through the air, for 175 yards and a touchdown.

Rashan Williams had a big day for the WSSU receiving corps, with five catches for 102 yards. Reggie Wilkins finished with two catches for 45 yards and a score, while Marcel Caver Jr added two catches for 16 yards. Brandon Ojikutu had two receptions, while Williams Belcher, Trey Foggie, Tyree Massey and Kerrion Moore each had one catch on the day.

Washington led the WSSU defense with eight tackles on the day, with Phillip Williams and Vernon Brandon each picking up seven tackles each. Michael Bloomfield had a monster day, finishing with six tackles, five tackles for losses, four sacks and a forced fumble. PJ Clyburn also had six tackles, while Jaitavius Jackson finished with five tackles. Amyl Smith had a forced fumble and three tackles, and Michael Douglas picked up a fumble recovery to go with his three tackles.