Tuskegee Wins Pioneer Bowl

By John Devlin
Updated: December 6, 2009

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Tuskegee’s Golden Tigers closed out the 2009 football season the same way they began the journey back in late August — with a win at Benedict College’s Charlie W. Johnson Stadium.

Tuskegee took the first step on the road to their fourth straight SIAC championship with a 27-7 win over Benedict on Aug. 22. The Golden Tigers put the finishing touches on a 10-2 season on Saturday, downing Elizabeth City State 21-7 in Pioneer Bowl XI.

Running back Markus Douglas was the unlikely hero for Tuskegee, which has won four straight Pioneer Bowls and is 7-2 overall at the annual HBCU postseason classic.

Douglas was named the game’s most valuable player after running for 74 yards and scoring two second-half touchdowns after ECSU took a 7-6 lead early in the third quarter. The senior reserve entered the game with just 230 yards rushing and two touchdowns on the season.

“We came out prepared and got the win,” Douglas said. “We have some good backs and the competition has been pretty fierce for playing time, so when it’s my time I just want to make the best of it.”

Douglas had another touchdown slip away when he was stripped of the ball at the ECSU 1-yard line by Vikings cornerback Justin Hamilton in the second quarter.

“We’re fortunate to have some depth at running back,” Tuskegee coach Willie Slater said. “Markus has been a backup all year, but he got a chance to show what he can really do today.”

The Vikings, playing in their first Pioneer Bowl, simply made too many mistakes. Penalties and dropped passes were especially costly.

“We were very happy to have the opportunity to be here, but things just didn’t fall our way,” Vikings coach Waverly Tillar said. “This was our first game more than a month and we didn’t execute quite the way we wanted. But it was an honor to play in a national game. This is going put Elizabeth City’s name out there a little more than it has been.

Hopefully, we’ll use this experience as a building block for next season.”

ECSU sophomore linebacker Tolbert Matthews, who had 11 tackles, one tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry, was named the game’s defensive MVP.

But the defensive play of the game for the Vikings was turned in by tackle Terry Griffin, who tackled and stole the ball from Tuskegee’s Tony Forney in one motion early in the second half, putting the ECSU offense in business at the Golden Tigers’ 5-yard line.

It took four plays, but the Vikings cashed in on a 3-yard pass from Tashawn Lee to Dexter Manley.

Lee’s pass was actually tipped high in the air by Tuskegee’s Kenneth Baker, but Manley came down with it in the left corner of the end zone.

Daniel Mendez’s extra point gave ECSU a 7-6 lead at 11:08 left in the third quarter.

The Golden Tigers responded quickly.

Wayne Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 58 yards to the ECSU 29-yard line. Douglas scored from the 8 seven plays later, and a two-point conversion run Nykeem Barton made it 14-7.

Tuskegee put it on ice with a three-play, 55-yard drive after an interception by Ronald Smith.

Douglas burst 20 yards up the middle for the clinching score one play after a 46-yard pass from Joshua Harris to Antoine Mitchell.

Tuskegee’s balanced attack produced 146 rushing on the ground and Harris had 188 yards passing.

ECSU rushing leader Daronte McNeill finished with 65 yards on 17 carries.

Quarterback Creven Powell had a tough time. The junior was 19-for-36 passing for 171 yards, but threw four interceptions and was sacked four times.

He also had five passes dropped, including one at the Tuskekee 12-yard line that doomed a promising scoring drive in the early in the second quarter.