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Five Questions For WSSU Heading Into D2 Semifinal

Saturday’s Division II Semifinal will be the last home game for Kam Smith. But will it also be the last time Connell Maynor leads WSSU into Bowman Gray? (WSSU photo)

5. Will this be WSSU’s breakout playoff game?

After Winston-Salem State beat Shippensburg 37-14, head coach Connell Maynor said his team could have played better. While he wasn’t as critical of his team’s performance against a tough IUP team, they did turn the ball over twice, the running game stalled, and they failed to execute in the red zone several times. With regular starting quarterback Kam Smith scheduled to start against West Texas A&M, WSSU will be as close to full-strength as they have been in the 2013 playoff run. Is this the night that it all comes together?

4. Will this be Connell Maynor’s last home game as WSSU coach?

This question will be on the minds of many people as they enter Bowman Gray Stadium today. In just three years, Maynor has brought WSSU from the depths of a deferred Division I dream to the brink of a national championship, two years in a row. He is a young, charismatic coach with an exciting offense. It’s also obvious that his players enjoy playing for him. Oh, and his three year record is a spectacular 34-3.

Other programs came calling for Maynor last year, and they surely will this season, as his team finished its regular season undefeated for the second year in a row. Maynor is definitely the hottest coach in the HBCU ranks, if not all of Division II. He’s a bargain at $160,000 per year and surely, there will be other programs with more money to throw his way. It’s likely not even Maynor himself knows the answer to this question.

3. Can Winston-Salem State handle West Texas A&M’s pass rush?

Last week, backup quarterback Anthony Carrothers took a pounding against a tough IUP defense. Both Carrothers and head coach Connell Manor admitted as much. This week, the Rams will be up against just as big of a challenge when they line up against a West Texas A&M team that has sacked opposing quarterbacks 58 times this season. Which leads us to question no. 2….

2. Will Kam Smith be able to stay healthy for the entire game? 

Smith is likely to go down as one of the best quarterbacks in WSSU history. His play this season speaks for itself: he threw for 37 touchdowns and 2,710 yards despite not playing the fourth quarter in the majority of his team’s games. But Smith hasn’t played a complete game in over a month, since WSSU’s win over Fayetteville State the first week of November.

Smith injured his shoulder in the CIAA Championship game against Elizabeth City, sat the entire game against Shippenburg, and didn’t come in until midway through the fourth quarter against IUP. In that game he managed to shake off the rust in just enough time to toss the game winning touchdown to Ricky Rozier. But the question remains–can Smith survive an entire game against the aggressive West Texas pass rush.

1. Will the fans show up?
If you combined the attendance figures for both last week’s playoff game and the second round game against Shippenburg, the Bowman Gray Stadium would be a little over half full. And that includes the other team’s supporters and would include counting some fans twice. Simply put, the fan support Winston-Salem State has received during its playoff run isn’t quite what you would expect from a team that has lost just one game in the last two seasons.

One would hope that with their team one win away from a national championship birth, the hometown fans, alumni and students would pack the house. But with a nationally televised game (ESPN 3) that starts at 6:30 p.m. and temperatures expected to be in the low 60s with no sunlight, it would have to be an incredible turnaround to have that take place.

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