Same song, but a different game.

Winston-Salem State suffered another loss, this time 23-13 to 20th-ranked Bowie State, and it looked very familiar to how the entire season has gone.

In front of more than 4,000 at Bowman Gray Stadium on Saturday afternoon the Rams had a 13-0 lead, and then, nothing.

The Bulldogs blocked a point-after-attempt and went 90 yards the other way for two points late in the second quarter, and the Rams didn't score the rest of the game.

The killer for the Rams (1-4, 0-2 CIAA) came in the form of an interception of quarterback Dominique Graves with 2:18 left and the Rams trailing 16-13. On a third-and-goal from the Bulldogs’ 6-yard line, Graves made the wrong read on a play and tried to hit Quincy Jackson on a slant. But Demitri Morsell made the interception as Jackson didn’t run the pattern.

Graves said it was his fault because Jonathan Allen, the other wide receiver, went on the slant and he was open on the other side of the field.

“It was on me,” said Graves, who finished with a career-high three interceptions and was sacked four times. “With the play calls we have, a lot of them that sound familiar, and Jon Allen actually had the inside move so that was on me because I threw it to the wrong side.”

The interception took away any momentum the Rams had built after they trailed for the first time late in the third quarter. DuShon David caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ja’rome Johnson that put the Bulldogs (5-0, 2-0) up 16-13.

The Rams couldn’t put together a scoring drive in the fourth quarter. Even after leading at halftime 13-9, the fifth time in five games that they have led at the break, the Rams bogged down.

Robert Massey, the Rams’ interim head coach, wasn’t convinced that one play beat his team. Instead, he pointed to the costly penalties and not being able to come up with big plays when needed.

“It’s the same thing we’ve seen, but we have to do a better job of cutting down on those mistakes,” Massey said. “And give credit to them, they made plays and we didn’t. Bowie is a good team and good teams make plays, and that’s something we have to learn to do.”

Massey has tried everything to turn his team around, and before the game he reached into WSSU's outstanding football tradition by having Bill Hayes, the legendary former coach and athletics director of the Rams, give a short pep talk to the players. Hayes talked about protecting "Our House" and the opportunity in front of the Rams to go out and try to beat the defending CIAA champions.

"The support is out there and you might not realize it but there are so many fans rooting hard for you guys," Hayes told the players before the game.

On the touchdown that the Bulldogs scored to take the lead for good late in the third quarter, they went 98 yards in eight plays aided by a face-mask penalty by the Rams early in the drive. Twice Graves, who is also the Rams’ punter, pinned the Bulldogs deep in their own territory. But the Rams never took advantage.

Morsell, a talented sophomore cornerback, had two interceptions of Graves but the second one was the biggest.

“We worked on pressing up all week in practice with my coach and play with your head up and when I saw the quarterback throw it I just pressed up and caught it,” Morsell said.

Morsell said he didn’t notice that Jackson, a senior wide receiver who had four catches for 49 yards, wasn’t looking at Graves.

“I’m not sure where the receiver was looking, because I had my eyes on the ball the whole way,” Morsell said.

Earlier in the drive, the Rams went for it on a fourth down and instead of electing to try for a field goal went for it and running back Quarderman Sloan converted. If Graves hadn't thrown an interception, Massey said the Rams would have tried for a field goal on fourth down.

“We thought we would tie the game up and kick a field goal there,” Massey said. “But we threw the interception but we shot ourselves in the foot. You know, that’s life and there’s always a learning curve and we hate that, but that’s where we are now.”

The Rams, as they have all season, played an outstanding first half and scored twice in the second quarter. Running back Farrell Murchison scored on a 3-yard run and Pavel Buenaventura’s point after attempt was good to make the score 7-0 early in the second quarter. On their next possession, the Rams scored again with Cameron Williams catching a 20-yard touchdown from Graves aided by a good downfield block from Chandler Belk.

On the point-after attempt, however, Buenaventura got a late start after the snap and it was blocked by Tevin Singleton who also raced 90 yards the other way for the two points for the Bulldogs.

Cornerback Josh Flowers of the Rams said it hasn’t been easy trying to explain away all the close losses.

“It’s frustrating,” Flowers said about the losing. “It pisses me off that we are losing but we’ll be back in the lab on Sunday for practice.”

The Rams’ defense spent most of the day chasing Johnson, the Bulldogs junior quarterback who transferred from Virginia-Wise. Johnson had a career-high 122 yards rushing on 16 carries and his 23-yard scramble for a touchdown with 1:33 left in the half cut the Rams’ lead to 13-9.

“He was shifty and was a good player and was able to run around some on us,” Flowers said, “so we just have to play solid and be better against the run game.”

The Rams, who will play Johnson C. Smith on Saturday at Bowman Gray Stadium, are now a long shot to win the Southern Division. Even if they win their remaining five games, all against Southern Division opponents, it might not be good enough to reach the CIAA championship game.

“It’s becoming the same song over and over,” said defensive back D’Andre Blevins. “We preach it every week about doing the little things better. We have to finish games, and I just feel like we have to rally and stay together as a team…. We have to play our football and we’ll get there.”

Bowie State;0;9;7;7;—;23

WSSU;0;13;0;0;—;13

W – Murchison 3 run (Buenaventura kick)

W – Williams 20 pass from Graves (kick blocked)

B – Point after attempt blocked by Singleton and returned

B – Johnson 23 run (Carson kick)

B – David 3 pass from Johnson (Carson kick)

B – Singleton 12 yard interception return (Carson kick)

A – 4,266

 

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