Johnson C. Smith Runs Past Benedict, 34-31
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Johnson C. Smith rushed for 278 yards and had a pair of kickoff returns for touchdowns to defeat the Benedict Tigers 34-31 in the Tigers’ home opener and spoil the debut of the renovated Charlie W. Johnson Stadium Saturday in the Carolinas Classic.
The 278 yards by the Bulls was the most by a Benedict opponent since Kentucky State rushed for 316 yards against the Tigers in 2016. Last season, Benedict ranked fourth in the nation in rushing defense, giving up an average of 72.7 yards. Emmanuel Wilson led the way for the Golden Bulls with 265 yards on 12 carries and three touchdowns.
“I’m disappointed,” said Benedict head coach Mike White. “I’m disappointed in the way our special teams played, and disappointed in the way our defense played. We’ve just got to go back and look at the film and evaluate and see what we can fix.”
Johnson C. Smith opened the game with a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Damon Rice.
“That was terrible,” White said. “It was a terrible sign. Then to give up a second one was even worse. Then to give up two big running plays, that’s something we normally don’t do here.”
The Tigers recovered a JCSU fumble later in the first quarter, and Dyquan Bloodsaw scored the first Benedict touchdown on the new turf field on a five-yard run with 7:19 on the clock to tie the game at 7-7.
The Tigers went on a nine-play, 64-yard drive to close out the first quarter, with Keivonte Gallmon catching a six-yard pass from Phillip Brown with 15 seconds left in the first quarter to give Benedict a 14-7 lead. Benedict’s lead was short-lived, as Wilson busted through the Benedict defense for an 83-yard touchdown run to tie the game, 14-14, with 14:47 left in the second quarter.
Benedict answered on the next drive as Brown capped off a drive with a 30-yard touchdown run to put the Tigers back on top, 21-14, with 11:15 on the clock. On the ensuing possession, Rice returned his second kickoff for a score, racing 85 yards to tie the game at 21. Neither team scored again the rest of the quarter, and the score stayed tied 21-21 at the half.
The Tigers blocked a Johnson C. Smith punt in the third quarter, as the Bulls were backed up to their own 4-yard line. Bloodsaw blocked the punt and the ball went out the back of the end zone for a Benedict safety, giving the Tigers a 23-21 lead with 4:53 left in the third quarter.
The Golden Bulls took the lead for good when Wilson punched another long touchdown run, going 73 yards to put JCSU ahead 28-23 with 1:49 left in the third quarter. Wilson tacked on a 64-yard touchdown run with 14:49 left in the game to put the Golden Bulls ahead 34-23.
Benedict cut the lead to 34-31 on a six-yard scoring pass from Brown to Bloodsaw with 8:37 left in the game. The Tigers got to midfield on their next possession before a penalty and sack pushed them back and were forced to punt. Benedict forced the Bulls to punt on the next possession, and the Tigers got the ball for one last chance with 1:22 left in the contest. On second down, Brown lofted a long pass that was intercepted by the Golden Bulls.
“I can’t really say where we had the issues with,” White said about giving up the long runs. “It looked like on the perimeter we had some issues every time the ball bounced outside. We have to go back and evaluate that and fix that. But right now, we’re not a good football team.”
Benedict finished with 331 yards of total offense as Brown rushed for 78 yards and a score and went 14-of-25 for 188 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Defensively, Robert Cummings and Amari Andrews had six tackles each for the Tigers.
Benedict takes on Savannah State University, the SIAC’s newest member, next Saturday at Lucy Laney High School in Augusta, Ga., in the Augusta Classic.