Courtesy: Benedict Athletics
FAIRFIELD, Ala. – The Benedict College Tigers held off a second-half surge by the Miles Golden Bears, and Noah Zaire Scotland scored the go-ahead touchdown with 2:25 remaining as the 11th-ranked Tigers remained unbeaten with a 27-24 victory on Saturday afternoon.
“That was a program defining win for us,” said Benedict head coach Chennis Berry. “We needed to go through some adversity. That’s the sign of a championship football team. I think this brought our football team together, to come on the road in hostile territory and come away with the victory.”
Benedict (6-0 overall, 4-0 SIAC) had a 21-3 lead at the half, but the Golden Bears scored on a 42-yard pass after getting the ball when Aeneas Dennis threw his first interception of the season. The PAT failed to make it 21-9 with 6:25 remaining in the third quarter.
Benedict got the ball back on the next series and the Tigers were driving when the Golden Bears intercepted Dennis again. Miles (4-2 overall, 3-1 SIAC) drove 86 yards on nine plays to score again to cut the lead to 21-16 with 11:20 left in the game.
Benedict was facing a fourth-and-one at the Miles 44-yard line, but the Tigers came up short. Miles took over and scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 22-yard quarterback scramble to take a 24-21 lead after a successful two-point conversion with 7:49 left on the clock.
“This is a game where each of us had to depend on each other – offense, defense and special teams,” Berry said. “When Miles took the lead, our offense didn’t blink.”
The Tigers received the ball and went on a long, time-consuming drive, marching 87 yards on 12 plays. The key play on the drive was a 17-yard pass from Dennis to Jalen Jones on third-and-16. Dennis later found Jones for a 12-yard pass. Then on third-and-10 from the Miles 29, Dennis found Nicholas Sowell for an 11-yard pickup. On the next play, Dennis and Sowell combined again for a 17-yard pass to give Benedict a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line.
“Nick Sowell had an amazing day,” Berry said. “He had a great week of practice, and he understands that if you put in the work during the week, you get what you deserve on game day. He was amazing. I’m just so proud of him.”
Scotland got the call and scored his third touchdown of the game to give Benedict a 27-24 lead with 2:25 left in the game.
The Bears had one final chance, but Aaron Miller sacked Miles quarterback Kamren Ivory on fourth-and-one to seal the game for the Tigers.
“We needed a game like this to spark us for the rest of the season,” Berry said. “I’m so very proud of our team, our coaches, our players, our support staff, the people from Tiger nation who came from all over the country to come see us play, and they got the chance to witness a really good football team, and I’m so very proud to be the head football coach here.”
Benedict gave up a season-high 362 yards to the Golden Bears, but the defense forced five Miles turnovers, gaining four fumbles and an interception. Benedict also collected five tackles for loss, two sacks, and five quarterback hurries.
“Our defense has been playing well all year,” Berry said. “Kudos to them and the staff. They’ve been doing an amazing job. They may have bent a little bit, but they didn’t break, and they found a way to win a football game. I’m very proud of our defensive staff, as well as our defensive football team.”
Dennis completed 21-of-37 passes for 286 yards and one touchdown, with two interceptions. Nicholas Sowell was the top target, hauling in nine passes for 174 yards, both career highs, with one touchdown – a 73-yard first-quarter bomb that gave Benedict a 7-3 lead.
Benedict recovered a Miles fumble at the Golden Bears’ one-yard line on the next series, and Scotland scored on the next play to make it 14-3. Scotland scored on a 34-yard run in the second quarter to give the Tigers a 21-3 lead.
“Our mission every week is just to go 1-0, and we accomplished the mission because we stuck together as a football team and found a way to win a football game.”
Benedict has a short turnaround before taking on Fort Valley State in a primetime game Thursday night that will be televised on ESPN2.