Winston-Salem State’s last second, 17-14 win over Bowie State on Saturday gave the team its latest, and perhaps most unlikely, CIAA championship.
WSSU was picked to win the CIAA Championship in the preseason, but that was in doubt all the way until Will Johnson’s 23 yard field goal went through the uprights as time expired to stun favored Bowie State.
Johnson’s score capped 17 unanswered points for the Rams after the Bulldogs took a 14-0 lead late in the second quarter.
The game played out much as the Rams season did. The team started the season 0-3, after having lost just two regular season games in the previous four seasons. They started to get things going in CIAA play, going 4-1 over their next five games and suddenly things were looking up.
Speaking of looking up, that’s what happened late in the second quarter, when WSSU suddenly found a rhythm in the passing game, as Rod Tinsley Jr., found Rashaun Williams twice for 65 yards, setting up a 4-yard Tyree Massey touchdown to cut the lead to 14-7 at halfime.
Flash back to two weeks ago, when WSSU lost to a winless Shaw team at homecoming, in double overtime. It was evident that opponents no longer feared them, and that even their most faithful supporters were beginning to wonder if the good old days were simply just the good old days.
Meanwhile in the third quarter, WSSU picked up a Bowie State fumble, then returned the favor with a fumble of its own. Bowie State drove to the redzone, but couldn’t come up with a touchdown, so it settled for a 37-yard field goal attempt by Christop Palmer, which would have put Bowie up by two scores. Palmer’s kick was short, giving WSSU new life.
The Rams were close, and they knew it. Just as they did the week prior when Fayetteville State came to town with the Southern Division title and a CIAA Championship berth on the line. WSSU squeaked out a 24-22 win, setting up the date with Bowie State.
So when WSSU’s defense got it the ball back with 5:35 left in the fourth quarter, a largely stagnant offense knew that if it could grind away, it could steal a victory. And that’s just what it did.
Against the odds, in spite of their knack for shooting themselves in the foot at critical moments, the Rams found a way to come together and write their names into the history books. It may not have been pretty, it may not have been easy, but they found a way, and that’s all that really matters.