The question pertaining to Winston-Salem State’s so-called rivalry with Johnson C. Smith in football is this: Is it truly a rivalry when one side has dominated the other for so long?
The Rams (1-4, 0-2 CIAA) will take on the Golden Bulls (2-3, 1-1) at 1:30 p.m. at Bowman Gray Stadium today.
This series has been easy going for the Rams, who are coming into today’s game with an 18-game winning streak over the Bulls. WSSU has outscored Johnson C. Smith 597-182 during the streak, which includes four shutouts. The Rams won last year 34-14 in Charlotte.
The Bulls’ most recent win in this series came in 1996 when Kermit Blount was in his second year as coach of the Rams. Blount now coaches the Bulls and will bring his run-oriented offense into Bowman Gray Stadium.
Not a lot has gone right for the Rams this season as Robert Massey, the interim head coach, is trying to figure out how to avoid the close losses.
“We’ve got to cut down on mistakes and stop shooting ourselves in the foot,” said Massey, whose Rams are ninth in the CIAA in scoring at 17.9 points a game.
The Rams just might find the Bulls’ defense to their liking. The Bulls are allowing 32 points per game with wins over Benedict and Lincoln (Pa.) and losses against Wingate, Virginia Union and Virginia State.
Here are five things to know heading into the Southern Division opener for both teams:
1. Something good is bound to happen
There seems to be a dark cloud over the Rams, where a mistake here or there is too much to overcome. Adversity is a word that Massey uses all the time, and this current team hasn’t found ways to bounce back when it matters most.
“We talk about it all the time and guys have to be resilient and go to the next play,” Massey said. “It’s a learning curve, we know, but we have to handle adversity a lot better.”
2. A familiar coach comes to town
Blount has returned to Bowman Gray Stadium to coach since he left WSSU. He was an All-CIAA quarterback for the Rams in the late 1970s, and then was a head coach for 16 seasons, where he compiled a 91-87-3 record and won two CIAA titles at WSSU.
Blount brings a running team into Bowman Gray Stadium led by William Emanuel, a 5-foot-11, 210-pound sophomore who has gained 749 yards and scored eight touchdowns on 91 carries. He is averaging 8.2 yards a carry.
“We really like his production and we got a good one in this kid,” Blount said.
3. Stopping the run will be huge
WSSU’s defense has done a good job against running backs, but not so much against running quarterbacks. In last week’s loss against Bowie State quarterback Ja’rome Johnson ran all over the Rams.
“We know that Johnson C. Smith likes to run the ball, and that’s what we have to be prepared for,” Massey said. “This kid they have back there is a lot like Tabyus (Taylor) of Virginia Union, and we held him down for the most part. We know stopping the run is going to be huge on Saturday.”
4. Scoreboard watching already
It seems early to be watching results of other games in the conference, but the Shaw-Fayetteville State game will be one to keep an eye on today.
The Broncos already have the inside track to winning their third straight Southern Division title, but if they slip up against the Bears, there would be hope for the Rams. WSSU is a longshot to win the division, but there will be slight hope if the Broncos stumble.
5. Hall of Fame inductees
This year’s class of the Big House Gaines Hall of Fame will be recognized today at halftime. Four individuals as well as the 1987 football are going into the hall.
It’s hard to say if WSSU will need any of those 1987 players to come out of retirement and play today against the Golden Bulls. But that team, coached by Bill Hayes, was special. It actually was Hayes’ final WSSU team before he left for N.C. A&T.
That year, the Rams went 9-3 and beat Hampton 30-6 in the CIAA championship game. That team also had a 22-16 loss against Troy State in the Division II playoffs.
Also being inducted into the Big House Gaines Hall of Fame this weekend are the late John X. Miller, Sr., a former tennis, track and assistant basketball coach; Buddy Taylor, a former athletics trainer; and Dr. Calvert H. Smith and Fred Warren for their service to the university.