WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - The #9 Winston-Salem State used a stifling defensive effort from its top ranked defense, and overcame four turnovers to defeat #20 Slippery Rock, 27-20 in the first round of the 2013 NCAA DII Playoffs.
With the win the Rams improve to 10-1 overall, while the Lions of Slippery Rock fall to 9-3 as their season ends.
Slippery Rock got on the board first, after a turnover by Winston-Salem State on their first series, and four plays later the Rock had taken a 6-0 lead after the failed PAT attempt.
The WSSU Rams would answer right back on a 72 yard, eight play drive, highlighted by a 33 yard pass and catch from Rudy Johnson to Shane Blue. WSSU would score its first points on a Johnson to Joshua Glisson three yard pass and catch, and with the missed PAT, the game was knotted at 6-6.
The two teams would trade punts until early in the second quarter, the Rams' Vernon Brandon made an incredible diving catch for an interception, giving WSSU the ball on Slippery Rock's side of the field.
Winston-Salem State would capitalize as Rudy Johnson would lead the team 52 yards in seven plays, and on the final play of the drive, Johnson found a wide open fullback in Will Miller in the flat for a touchdown. The score gave the Rams a 13-7 lead.
Slippery Rock changed quarterbacks and it seemed as though they were going to come right back at WSSU, but on third and 12, Nigel Barksdale's pass was intercepted by Larry Hearne, and he out sprinted everyone down the sideline for a pick six, giving WSSU a 20-6 lead with 7:12 left before halftime.
WSSU would force another punt, but on the first play of the drive for the Rams, Rudy Johnson's pass would be tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by Quindell Dean and return 18 yards for a touchdown, cutting the WSSU lead to 20-13.
WinstonSalem State would put its 2:00 offense into effect, and the Rams marched right down the field and looked to extend their lead before halftime, but on first and goal after a beautiful 43 yard run by Rudy Johnson, his next pass would be picked off in the endzone, but still allowed for a 2-13 lead for the Rams heading into the locker room.
Neither team could manage anything on their first possessions of the second half but WSSU would put together another long drive after a SRU punt, and on first down Rudy Johnson would find tight end Jerry Chandler for a 33 yard touchdown, extending the WSSU lead to 27-13.
WSSU's defense would shine once again on SRU's next play, as Vernon Brandon would pick off another Lion pass, his second interception of the afternoon.
But the Rams would give the ball right back to Slippery Rock two plays later as Rudy Johnson's pass would be picked off setting SRU up in good field position.
Slippery Rock would take advantage of the turnover, and 10 plays later Nigel Barksdale would cross the goal line for a touchdown, cutting the WSSU lead to 27-20.
It would be a battle of defenses in the fourth quarter, and the Rams #1 ranked defense in DII football stood tall and did not allow Slippery Rock any type of yardage or field position.
The Rams would have another opportunity midway through the fourth to get more points on the board, but a William Johnson 41 yard field goal would sail wide right, keeping the score at 27-20.
But WSSU's defense put the clamps on The Rock, and did not allow them any more scoring opportunities, as the Rams would stymie SRU's offense, en route to winning the game.
WSSU committed a season high four turnovers on the afternoon, but it was the defensive effort – holding Slippery Rock to just 210 total offensive yards, 346 yards short of their season average., while also holding SRU to 20 points, 25.6 points below their season average.
The game was also marred by penalties, as the Rams had 17 infractions for 155 yards, while The Rock finished with 12 for 116 yards.
WSSU Also dominated the time of possession, with 37:11 to just 22:49 for Slippery Rock.
Offensively for the Rams, Rudy Johnson finished with 86 yards on 18 carries, while Maurice Lewis added 69 yards on 19 carries.
Chase Powell led the receivers with five catches for 81 yards, and Marucie Lewis also had five catches for 59 yards. Kenneth Patterson (25 yards) and Rashon Williams (22 yards) each had three catches, while Shane Blue, Jerry Chandler and Joshua Glisson each had two pass receptions a piece. Chandler and Glisson also had touchdowns catches, while Donovan Raspberry and Will Miller each caught one pass, with Miller's accounting for a score.
Defensively, Carlos Fields finished with 12 tackles and two tackles for losses, while John Rizor had five tackles, one sack and one tackle for loss to go with a quarterback hurry. Danny Bunn also finished with five tackles. Donnie Owens, Daniel Mungin and Everette Proctor each ahd four tackles with Owens also picking up a sack and two tackles for losses, while Mungin had 1.5 tackles for losses. Casey Davenport Also picked up a sack for the Rams, and Larry Hearne had an interception that he returned 70 yards for a score, while Vernon Brandon had two interceptions on the afternoon.
Winston Salem State University will now advance to the second round of the NCAA DII Playoffs, and will travel to Shepherd University net Saturday to take on Super Region One's top seed.