TUSKEGEE, Ala. | The 14th-ranked Tuskegee University Golden Tigers could not overcome a 10-point halftime deficit, falling to Virginia State 45-35 in the regular season finale at Cleve L. Abbott Memorial Alumni Stadium.
The two teams combined for 833 yards of total offense on Saturday, with Tuskegee getting 409 of their own that included 242 yards through the air. However, it was the big play ability of Virginia State that put the game out of reach with two special teams touchdowns. With Virginia State leading 10-7 in the final minutes of the first half, March Van Hook fielded a punt and raced down the field 79 yards to put the Trojans up 17-7 at the half. And the first play of the second half, Trenton Cannon extended the lead to 24-7 when he took a kickoff 75 yards for a touchdowns and 17-point advantage for the visitors.
After the kickoff return, the two teams traded touchdowns the remainder of the way for the final margin.
Desmond Reece caught his second touchdown of the day when he hauled in a 30-yard pass in the back of the end zone with 11:05 remaining in the third quarter to trim the deficit to 24-14. Following a Virginia State touchdown run, the Golden Tigers got on the board again with the legs of Reece as he ran it in from five yards out after a 54-yard run earlier in the possession. The touchdown trimmed the deficit to 31-21 with 5:44 to play in the third.
The final touchdown of the third quarter came after a touchdown run by Virginia State, that was aided by a blocked field goal after the Golden Tigers' Tyrez McCain was able to block a Virginia State punt. Senior tight end Leo Gilbert caught a pass from Ezell, then took off down the field for a 75-yard touchdown - the longest touchdown this season for the Golden Tigers.
In the fourth quarter, the two teams traded scores for the final margin.
Ezell led the Golden Tigers offensively with 140 yards passing on 5-of-11 with a pair of touchdowns, while also running for 31 yards on seven carries. Reece finished with eight touches for 141 yards offensively for Tuskegee, with 73 coming via the ground game and four receptions for 68 yards through the air. Gilbert hauled in a pair of passes for 81 yards on a pair of receptions, while Javarrius Cheatham had a pair of catches for 42 yards.
Osband Thompson, the SIAC Defensive Player of the Year, led Tuskegee with 15 tackles and an interception; whlle QuavonTaylor added 10 in the loss.
Cannon led Virginia State with 99 yards rushing on 13 carries, while Kevon Bellamy added 82 on 17 carries (the duo came in with 2,000 yards rushing this season.
The Golden Tigers must now await their fate with the conclusion of the regular season, waiting until Sunday afternoon with the NCAA Selection Show slated to begin at 4:00 pm (cst).