Tigerville, S.C. – North Greenville put up 28-points in the first quarter while the defense forced four turnovers en-route to a 45-26 win over Tuskegee University in the second round of the NCAA Division-II playoffs.
North Greenville got out of the gates quickly, marching 73-yards on just three plays after receiving the game’s first kickoff. Tracy Scott burst through the line of scrimmage for a 47-yard game to open the drive. Scott took the second carry of the game for a couple yards before Will Hunter found Demajiay Rooks from 24-yards out for the game’s first score.
The Crusaders would capitalize on its second opportunity of the quarter after the defense forced a three-and-out on Tuskegee’s first drive of the game. The Golden Tigers mustered just three-yards on their first possession as Eddie Studyvance came up in run support on third and long to force the Tigers to punt. It was Studyvance’s only tackle of the game but proved huge, as NGU’s offense would capitalize on the quick turnaround.
North Greenville’s second score of the game came on the heels of a 10-play 89-yard drive that extended the lead to 14-0. The Tigers would get a steady dose of Tracy Scott on the drive as he carried the rock six times with final tote being a touchdown from one yard out. Scott finished the day with 128-yards on 25-carries. It was also the fourth consecutive 100-yard rushing performance for the freshman tying the record set by Rashad Cummings in 2007.
Tuskegee miscues would be the story of the first quarter. The Tigers would fumble away their next possession as Dimajiay Rooks recovered a muffed kick at the Tuskegee 34 yard line. The Crusaders capitalized on the turnover six plays later as Bobby Foos recovered a fumble in the end zone to extend the lead to 21-0. The Tigers survived the next kickoff but gave the ball back to NGU on the first play from scrimmage on an interception by Nigel Gay. Gay returned the pick 50-yards to the Tuskegee 33 where Hunter and the offense took over.
The lead would balloon to 28-0 seven plays later when Mason Sanders scurried in from 10-yards out for his only touchdown of the day and Hunter’s second touchdown toss. Will Hunter threw for 272-yards on 17-completions to go along with three touchdowns. Sanders had 43-yards on three receptions for the day. The Sanders touchdown capped a dominant opening frame for NGU which ran 25-plays for 277-yards compared to just seven plays for 18-yards for the Tigers.
The action would slow in the second quarter as neither team scored in the first 10-minutes of the frame. The Tigers would force an NGU fumble but would give the ball back to North Greenville as Jordan Ferguson picked off the second pass of the day for NGU. The Crusaders were unable to capitalize on the turnover, giving Tuskegee the ball on the 34-yard line on a Bobby Foos punt.
Tuskegee took the NGU punt and put together its best drive of the game thus far, marching 45-yards for the first touchdown of the game. Jerome Lewis, Tuskegee’s 6-foot 6-inch quarterback would cap the first scoring drive of the game lunging in from one-yard out to cut North Greenville’s lead to 21-7. Lewis, who came into Saturday’s game as one of four Tuskegee players with 400+ yards on the ground this season finished the day with just one rushing yard and a touchdown.
The touchdown by Tuskegee looked to be the spark the Tigers needed on Saturday in a first half that went all but right for the visitors but NGU still had one more shot with 1:41 left in the half. Javon Smith set NGU at the 38-yardline with an 18-yard return where Will Hunter and the offense would take over, looking to regain a three-score edge before halftime.
The offense would move the ball in chunks, using three plays of over 10-yards to quickly find its way inside the Tuskegee 20. Hunter would find Mason Sanders for a 16-yard completion down to the one-yard line where he would punch in on the next play for his third rushing touchdown of the season while also giving NGU a 35-7 edge at intermission.
The Tigers would find some life coming out of halftime. Kevin Lacy would complete five passes in a row to move Tuskegee to the NGU 33. Lacy’s sixth pass would find Javarrius Chetham in the corner of the end zone for six. The Tigers missed the extra-point cutting NGU’s lead to 35-13.
An uncharacteristic interception from Will Hunter resulted in another Tuskegee touchdown as Lacey threw for his second touchdown of the game, this time finding Dekendrick Moncrief from 28-yards out to pull to within two scores. Lacy threw for 276-yards on 22-competions and three touchdowns Saturday, headlining an offense that is normally reliant on a solid running game.
North Greenville’s offense got back on track in the fourth quarter after a huge defensive stand on 4th down kept the Tigers from pulling to within one touchdown. The Crusaders would insert what would be the final nail on its first score of the second half. Hunter and Rooks would hook-up one more time on Saturday as a 51-yard connection put North Greenville up 42-20 with just 3:53 left in the game.
North Greenville would tack on a field goal while Tuskegee added one more touchdown in the final minutes. The Golden Tigers finished Saturday with 353-yards on offense, doing most of their damage through the air as NGU’s defense held one of the best rushing attacks in the country to just 64-yards. North Greenville finished with 511-yards on offense and was 11 of 18 on third down.
Defensively the Crusaders had three players with five tackles including Nigel Gay who had 5.5 tackles with an interception. Tony Godbolt also had an interception to go along with five tackles. Jeremiah Ferguson claimed NGU’s third interception while Sam Houston finished with five tackles.
North Greenville is now 2-0 in NCAA playoff games in Younts Stadium and 4-0 all time in post-season games including two Victory Bowl Championships. The Crusaders face a tough task in the third round of the playoffs as they travel to North Alabama for a rematch in the quarterfinals with the Lions. Game time between the Crusaders and UNA is to be determined. It will be NGU's second trip to the Division-II quarterfinals.