WINSTON-SALEM, NC – The Rams one-yard touchdown pass from Kameron Smith to Ricky Rozier proved to be the go-ahead score with 3:51 remaining as IUP fell to Winston-Salem State 21-17.
The touchdown pass from Smith came on third-and-goal from the one yard line after two straight two-yard rushes inside the five yard line.
The following IUP offensive drive did not start well, as quarterback Mike Box was sacked for a loss of eight yards back to the Crimson Hawks own 17-yard line. The next pass to Salath Williams fell incomplete as IUP faced a third-and-long. Box connected with Terrill Barnes on a short pass but he fought for additional yards to give IUP a fourth-and-five at its own 30. With the season on the line, Box again went Barnes way, finding him down the left sideline for a 23-yard gain to the Rams 47.
The very next play went for big yardage again, with running back De’Antwan Williams catching a pass over the middle and breaking tackles all the way down to the Winston-Salem 25. Gaining momentum, Box hit Barnes again, this time for 15 yards down the right sideline to give IUP a first-and-goal at the 10 yard line.
It was another pass to Williams on the next play as he was knocked out at the Rams five-yard line after slipping out of the backfield. On second down Box rolled to his left but his pass to Salath Williams fell incomplete, nearly getting picked off inside the five yard line.
On third down Box looked for Tyler Dummermuth in the end zone but the pass was off target, bringing up another fourth down with 34 seconds left on the clock. Dropping back again, Box looked off his primary receiver and targeted Dummermuth but the Winston-Salem pressure was too strong and All-American linebacker Carlos Fields hit Box’s arm, forcing the ball to fall to the grass, incomplete.
Box finished the game 16-of-32 for 236 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Barnes was his main target with a career-high nine catches for 160 yards a score.
With the exception of just a few plays over the course of the game, the IUP defense outplayed the high-octane Winston-Salem offense.
The Rams totaled 338 yards of offense, although 165 of those yards came on three plays. The first being a 62-yard screen pass to receiver Jameze Massey late in the opening quarter, which would eventually lead to a Rozier one-yard touchdown, the first score of the game.
Receiver Jahuann Butler had a 48-yard reception in the second quarter, but the backbreaker came on the final play of the first half. With just one second left on the clock and the ball at their own 45-yard line, starting quarterback Anthony Carrothers pass toward the end zone was tipped in the air and snatched up by Kenny Patterson, who fell across the goal line for the score. With that “Hail Mary” play, the Rams took a 14-7 lead into halftime.
Prior to that score, the Crimson Hawks tied the score at 7-7 with a 36-yard catch and run by Barnes, who broke several tackles and cut back inside the Rams 10-yard line, diving in the touchdown.
That score came with 48 seconds left, giving the Rams just enough time to get into position to convert the “Hail Mary”.
The second half was completely dominated by the IUP defense as the Crimson Hawks picked off a pass, recovered a fumble, forced a turnover on downs and a pair of punts. The Rams did have a chance to add to their lead coming out of the locker room, driving deep into IUP territory but a 40-yard field goal attempt went wide left.
Outside of that 12-play drive, the Rams ran just 14 more plays before their game-winning nine-play drive in the fourth quarter.
The Crimson Hawks got within four on their second drive of the third quarter as Brett Ullman’s 29-yard field goal split the uprights, making it a 14-10 Rams lead. The kick by Ullman was his 19th on the season, breaking the IUP record for field goals in a season.
Momentum would continue to swing in IUP’s favor, as on the ensuing kickoff, Marvase Byrd recovered a fumble forced by Johnny Franco at the Rams 22 yard line. De’Antwan Williams ran for gains of four and five yards and on third-and-one, Box’s sneak turned into a 12-yard gain to the Rams one. The following play IUP went back to Williams, who ran it in, helping give the Crimson Hawks a 17-14 lead with 2:55 left in the third.
Smith, who threw 39 touchdowns during the season but was injured three weeks ago and replaced by Carrothers, entered the game in the fourth quarter for the Rams in an attempt to provide a spark. His first two drives went for a total of seven yards before leading Winston-Salem to the game-winning drive.
Smith finished 5-of-9 for 32 yards and a touchdown while Carrothers was 10-of-25 for 259 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Massey caught five balls for 104 yards and Butler had four catches for 123 yards.
IUP finished with 18 first downs compared to 13 for the Rams, while also outgaining Winston-Salem with 369 yards of total offense. One of the nation’s best defenses also limited the Rams to 47 rushing yards while the Crimson Hawks gained 133. Williams led the way for IUP with 110 yards on 26 carries with a touchdown, also catching three passes for 28 more yards.
Carl Fleming led the way on defense with nine total tackles, including three tackles-for-loss and a half-sack. Carl Thornton added eight tackles while Alexander Berdahl, Jerrel McFadden and Shane Meisner all had five. Meisner provided pressure in the Rams backfield all game long, hurrying passes and notching two tackles-for-loss and a sack-and-a-half.
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