Game StatsBy Lut Williams
ATLANTA - Tuskegee used big plays to jump out to a 16-0 first half lead and effectively limited the potent Livingstone ground game to only 114 yards as they claimed a 23-9 victory in Pioneer Bowl II at chilly Herndon Stadium.
A crowd of 5,221 braved a cold, drizzly day as the two black college Div. II champions fought each other and the weather. Tuskegee's ability to convert big plays required the Blue Bears to play catch-up, a scenario that worked against their ball control offense.
Livingstone came in averaging a black college best 291 yards per game but after falling behind 9-0 in the first quarter and 16-0 early in the second quarter, they had to revert to the pass.
"Anytime you run the ball a whole lot and running is your gusto, then they're going to have to throw the ball, and make some adjustments" said victorious head coach Rick Comegy whose team gave the SIAC a 2-0 record over the CIAA in the young classic. "Then when they go back to running the ball they're running out the clock."
Comegy's troops were able to put Livingstone in that position by scoring early. They got their first points when Livingstone punter Sonji Mason could not handle a snap from his own end zone giving up a safety with 3:58 left in the first quarter.
After the ensuing kickoff, TUskegee needed just three plays to cover 54 yards, the final 47 coming on a pass from QB Aaron James to RB Michael Scott. Luke Bell's PAT put Tuskegee on top 9-0 with 2:13 left in the first quarter.
After stopping Livingstone on three-and-out, the Tigers came right back to score on their first play. This time on a Pioneer Bowl record 97-yard hook-up between James and wideout James Draine. Bell's PAT put the Tiger up 16-0 with 14:20 left in the half.
The Blue Bears made sure the game would not turn into a rout as they came back to march 80 yards in 12 plays to score before halftime. The drive, capped by QB Andre Hopper's 12-yard pass to TE Julian Brooks, consumed over five minutes and came 45 seconds before halftime.
"Whey you give up two touchdown passes including a 90-yarder that's got to be the difference," said Livingstone head man Rudy Abrams who suffered his second consecutive loss in the Pioneer Bowl.. "They made big plays and kept us from making big plays. Today, it looked like they were just bigger and stronger than we were. We'd make some good plays and then they'd get a big play. All I can say is that they played better."
The third quarter was marked by four interceptions and a safety. Livingstone got the safety after the first interception, a pick by Livingstone defensive back Tornell Jones at their own 31.
On their first play after the interception, Hopper hit WR Theron Wifgall on a slant that the lanky wideout carried for 65 yards before being caught from behind by TU safety Ralph Gaines. His fumble at the Tuskegee four-yard line rolled into the end zone and was recovered by Tuskegee defensive back Ralph Ganes. Ganes' attempt at a runback ended with him kneeling in the end zone but a holding penalty on Tuskegee on the runback gave Livingstone a safety with 10:49 left in the third quarter.
The interceptions came on back-to-back-to-back plays but did not result in any scores. Tuskegee got the final score following another huge play, a 59 yard run by Scott to the Livingstone four. Back-up QB Antonio Knight, who had replaced James a play earlier, scored from 10 yards out with 10:47 left.
Livingstone penetrated into Tuskegee territory twice more in the final ten minutes but was stopped each time on fourth down by the Tiger defense.
James, who finished with 204 yards passing (6 of 14) was named the Tuskegee Most Valuable Player while his counterpart, Hopper took home the award for Livingstone. He finished with 34 yards rushing and 185 yards through the air.