Tuskegee has great showing in first ever playoff game
Florence, Ala. - In a battle of coach and player wills, the North Alabama Lions defeated Tuskegee in a hotly contested 30-27 decision at Braly Municipal Stadium on Saturday. Tuskegee had a 10-7 lead at the end of the first quarter, and the Golden Tigers fought back from a 14-point deficit to tie the game up at 24-24 in the early stages of the third quarter. But, untimely turnovers and penalties prevented Willie Slater's team from punching a ticket to North Carolina next Saturday to play UNC-Pembroke in the second round of the Division II playoffs.
Trevor Wylie earned the first points in Tuskegee's playoff history, as a 45-yard field goal let TU cut into North Alabama's lead at 7-3. On the first play of the very next drive, Rashard Burkette was able to find lightning in a bottle, as he hooked up with Larry Cobb for the first touchdown pass in TU playoff history on a 57-yard strike through the middle of the Lions' defense.
"We stayed after practice a couple of days this week to make sure that we had our cadence down and our timing down," Burkette said.
Burkette threw for 218 yards passing, and Cobb was the top recipient of Burkette's shots downfield. The receiver had three receptions for 100 yards to go with the TD grab.
"We did stay after practice," Cobb said. "But, the coaches called certain plays that they wanted to run. We ran those plays, and I just ran my routes. The quarterback did his job and made the completions."
Two interceptions for the Golden Tigers, along with a fumble by Tyree Brooks, hurt the Golden Tigers. They played a key in allowing the Lions to play keep away with the pigskin for much the entire fourth quarter, after having the ball for just over a minute of game time in the third.
Coach Slater, who coached under UNA's Bobby Wallace for three national championships in the mid-90's, said that he was proud of how hard his team played in the contest. Tuskegee actually had more offensive yards than the co-champions of the Gulf South Conference by a total of 343 yards to 332, which was impressive given that the local newspaper in the Florence area picked the Lions to win by more than two touchdowns.
"Football is all about deception, and football is all about taking what the other team gives you," Slater said. "That's all we tried to do today. I thought that we did a pretty good job today, other than turning the ball over. I thought one of the interceptions we had would have led to a touchdown. We also had a first down and was driving to score, then we fumbled the ball. There's nothing we can do about that."
Slater placed blame on himself for Tuskegee not getting the victory, but has a positive outlook on what is to come in the future.
By: Michael Stewart, Sports Information Director, Tuskegee University
"It was us," Slater said. "I think that we belong. A lot of people were expecting us to be blown out, but I think we belong. We did this to ourselves. A lot of this was due to inexperience. Now, we got experience. So, we are expecting better things."
Larry Cobb scores on first offensive touchdown in Tuskegee playoff history during the Golden Tigers' 30-27 loss to North Alabama. Photo by Robin Mardis.
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