Winston-Salem State’s award-winning band, the Red Sea of Sound, put on a great performance at halftime. The rest of the homecoming game didn’t go so well.
Upstart Shaw shut down and shut out WSSU 21-0 in front of close to 12,000 at Bowman Gray Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Despite being back in the hunt for the CIAA’s Southern Division title, the Rams had little offense and a defense that was on the field a long time. Now the Rams have been eliminated from the race.
“We were out coached,” said Robert Massey, the Rams’ interim head coach. “We were out coached and outplayed and they wanted it more and you hate that. The unfortunate part is it can happen and it happened to us at the most inopportune time. We wanted to seize the moment – and we didn’t.”
Seizing the moment were the Shaw Bears (5-4, 4-2 CIAA) as they got an outstanding defensive performance. It was the first time the Rams (4-5, 3-3) have been shutout in the regular-season since 2008 when they were shutout 23-0 to Florida A&M – a span of 104 games.
Helping lead the charge for the Bears, who can win the Southern Division title with a win over St. Aug’s on Saturday and a Fayetteville State loss to WSSU, was linebacker Aaron Worthy.
Worthy, an East Forsyth graduate, has been thrust into the starting lineup this season because of an injury. Worthy (seven tackles) and Justin Daniels (10 tackles) were all over the field.
“We played this like it was our homecoming,” Worthy said. “We executed and played with a lot of energy and had our defense working at every turn. We try to shutout everybody, and we gave them a goose egg.”
The Bears’ offense wasn’t spectacular, but it did enough. Freshman running back Sidney Gibbs scored twice while rushing for 133 yards on 16 carries. His signature run was a 72-yard sprint up the middle in the second quarter where he went untouched to the end zone.
“We came in ready to play,” Gibbs said. “At the same time we need to win out to give ourselves a shot at the title, so we knew what we had to do. We executed our game plan and our defense was wonderful.”
The Rams missed a 27-yard field goal on their first possession of the game and then late in the game wide receiver Cam Williams grabbed a short pass from quarterback Dominique Graves and nearly scored. But as he was trying to leap into the end zone he was hit and fumbled and the ball was recovered by the Bears for a touchback.
Graves, a sophomore, was just 10 of 19 passing for 113 yards and was sacked three times. The Rams managed 247 yards, but had no rhythm other than running back Farrell Murchison, who had 96 yards on 13 carries.
“It sputtered,” Massey said about the offense as the Rams three-game winning streak was snapped. “Anytime that happens against a good defense that’s the result. You have to score and we didn’t do that.”
Not helping matters on offense the loss of two starters on the line, Jaelin Shaw and Michael Hudson, to leg injuries in the first half. Both had to be helped off the field by teammates and neither one returned.
Graves said the Bears had a very athletic and quick defense.
“I just felt like we couldn’t get into rhythm,” Graves said. “Especially me, I just couldn’t connect on a few throws and that hurt us.”
Also playing four series during the game was backup quarterback Naiil Ramadan, who wound up 3 for 10 for 17 yards and also couldn’t sustain any drives.
With so much at stake in front of a big crowd, which was the largest of the season, Graves was asked if there was maybe too much pressure on the Rams.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Graves said. “It just came down to execution and we didn’t have enough of that to win the game.”
The Bears scored early in the second quarter when Gibbs went in from 9 yards out for a 7-0 lead after Beni Kinsemi point-after attempt was good.
The next time the Bears got the ball they scored again, this time when Gibbs went up the middle for 72 yards. He outraced the Rams’ secondary and after Kinsemi’s point-after attempt was good they led 14-0 which stood up at halftime.
The 14-0 deficit was the first time all season the Rams trailed at halftime, but it never got any better in the second half.
The Bears put the game away late in the third quarter when Allajah Mitchell scored on a 1-yard run and Kinsemi made the point-after attempt for a 21-0 lead.
After the game while the two teams shook hands Gibbs said he wasn’t shy about giving the Rams encouragement about Saturday’s game with Fayetteville State. The only way the Bears can win the division is if Fayetteville State loses on Saturday at Bowman Gray Stadium and the Bears beat St. Aug’s.
“Oh yes, we were telling those guys to beat Fayetteville State,” Gibbs said, “and they were like ‘We got your back.’”
Massey said now that the division hopes are up in flames it’s about pride heading into their last game. The Rams can salvage a 5-5 season. The program hasn't been under .500 since 2009 when they went 1-10.
“We talked about pride today and you have people coming from all over the country to see their beloved Winston-Salem State,” Massey said. “And we let them down... This one hurts.”
Shaw 0 14 7 0 - 21
WSSU 0 0 0 0 - 0
S – Gibbs 9 run (Kensemi kick)
S – Gibbs 72 run (Kensemi kick)
S – Mitchell 1 run (Kensemi kick)
A – 11,740