WSSU Rams host Div. II Semifinal against W. Texas A&MBy Semaj Marsh
Published: December 5, 2012
Since coming off a historic playoff run a season ago, Winston-Salem State Head Coach Connell Maynor has always viewed this year as unfinished business.
Despite enjoying another undefeated regular season, capturing his second straight CIAA title and seeing his team rise to a No. 2 ranking in the national polls, Maynor knew the only thing that really mattered was winning in December and earning a trip to the Division II National Championship game in Florence, Alabama.
Last year, the Rams felt like they were able to get a slight glimpse at their goal, but similar to the biblical Moses, a disappointing 21-14 home playoff loss to Wayne State kept them from entering the Promised Land. On Saturday night, WSSU will finally get another chance to take that final step as a program when they host a national semifinal showdown against No. 16 West Texas A&M at Bowman Gray Stadium at 6:30 p.m. The contest will be shown live on ESPN3.com.
“This is what we’ve worked for,” said Maynor, who this week was named the Regional Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association. “It’s what we play for and what we practice for. It puts us right where we were last year and we’ve won our region for the second straight year. This team has done some remarkable things and we are not done yet.”
WSSU’s (13-0) remarkable journey was punctuated by a heart-stopping 21-17 comeback victory last weekend against Indiana (Pa). Down 17-14 in the final quarter, the Rams turned to ailing senior quarterback Kameron Smith who came off the bench to replace a struggling Anthony Carrothers and led WSSU on a 9-pay, 52 yard drive for the go-ahead score. His one-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Rozier with just 3:51 remaining sent the crowd of 5,212 into a frenzy but it was not until the Rams defense mounted a epic goal line stand in the final seconds that the Red & White clad fans at Bowman Gray were finally able to breath a collective sigh of relief.
“This was the first close game we have played in a long time and it gave us a good test,” said WSSU linebacker Khendra Reid who recorded six tackles and a pair of pass breakups. “We hadn’t had this all year and the coaches just said to keep playing our game and don’t look at the clock. If we just played our game we would come out with the win.”
Smith, who hadn’t played since suffering a shoulder injury in the CIAA Championship game’s first half, completed 5-of-7 passes for 32 yards against Indiana (PA). Maynor has not yet announced which quarterback will get the start on Saturday.
“I just couldn’t let this be my last game so I felt like I had to come in and do something,” Smith said. “My teammates made plays and our defense won the game for us. They played a great game.”
West Texas A&M (12-2) punched it’s ticket to the semifinals with a 34-13 win over top-ranked Colorado State-Pueblo. West Texas avenged an earlier loss to Pueblo during the regular-season.
The winner of Saturday night’s contest will advance to the national championship game on Dec. 15 against the winner of the Valdosta State / Minnesota State-Mankato match-up.