TUSKEGEE, Ala. — Tuskegee has as hallowed a football program that can be found in Black College Football. But in the SIAC Divisional Era, it is Miles that has become the standard-bearer.
For the second straight year and the fifth time since 2011, the Golden Bears will play for the SIAC title. A 20-6 dismantling of the Golden Tigers gave Miles the league’s Western Division crown and sets it up for a championship matchup at Albany State next week. If the title game opponent looks familiar, it’s because the Golden Rams have been the team Miles has faced in each of its five SIAC Championship Game appearances.
Before Miles (8-2, 5-1 SIAC West) could get another shot at a championship, it had to get through the Golden Tigers (5-5, 4-2) again. But the long-time rivals, despite playing in front of a raucous Homecoming crown and outgaining the Golden Bears offensively, fell behind in the first quarter and the Miles defense made sure they didn’t get back in it.
The big play came right before halftime. Miles led 10-3 but Tuskegee had driven deep into Golden Bears territory. On the precipice of tying the game, TU quarterback Jamarcus Ezell threw a pass in the flats towards the Golden Bears sideline. But N’Ktavious Floyd jumped the route, intercepted the pass, and ran it back 97 yards for a backbreaking touchdown that gave Miles a 17-3 lead with 3:33 left before halftime.
While the Miles offense struggled (245 yards), it did enough to make Tuskegee have to fight back against the tenacious Golden Bears defense. Donte Edwards rushed for 49 yards (including a 5-yard scoring run in the first quarter that gave Miles the lead for good) and Justin Ruiz rushed for 98 yards. The duo was especially effective in the fourth quarter, when they combined to run the ball nine consecutive times in an 11-play drive that took nearly eight minutes and effectively ended the ball game when Brady Hammel connected on a 33-yard field goal for the final margin with 2:28 left.
The defense was sharp when it needed to be. Aside from the four sacks and three interceptions, Miles stood strong each time Tuskegee got inside the red zone. The Golden Tigers settled for two field goals and the game-changing Pick Six by Floyd in their three trips, keeping them from getting any closer the rest of the way.