Benedict Second-Half Comeback Falls Short At Savannah State, 41-34
SAVANNAH, Ga. (Benedict) – The Benedict College Tigers fell behind early and staged a massive second-half rally, but the Savannah State Tigers scored on a 31-yard run with 1:24 left in the game to pull out a 41-34 victory on Saturday.
The loss drops Benedict to 2-1 overall and 0-1 in the SIAC. Savannah State improves to 2-1 overall and 1-0 in the SIAC.
Benedict trailed 34-13 with 11:15 left in the third quarter after Savannah State scored on a 15-yard run by D’Vonn Gibbons. Benedict scored 21 unanswered points, including a pair of touchdowns in less than a minute, to tie the game and bring the crowd at T.A. Wright Stadium to its feet.
“The guys kept fighting,” said Benedict head coach Chennis Berry. “We’re learning as a football team. I was proud of them and they just kept fighting to the end and they never gave up. We started slow, but in the end they kept fighting and they kept believing. We’re headed in the right direction; we’ve just got to have a few bumps in the road as we’re learning.”
With 1:40 left in the third quarter, Benedict scored on an end-around by receiver Steven Campbell to cut the lead to 34-20. The Tigers got into scoring position with a 37-yard pass play from quarterback and Savannah native Eric Phoenix to Tayven Grice. After the kickoff, Benedict forced a fumble on second down as Ja’Varrius Wilson hit Trenton Johnson and Joshua Heyward scooped up the loose ball and raced 30 yards for a score to make it 34-27 with 40 seconds left in the third quarter.
A 5-yard run by Phoenix in the fourth quarter capped off a 65-yard drive for the Tigers and tied the game at 34 with 4:12 remaining in the game.
Savannah State was facing a third-and-eight with under two minutes to play, when a pass interference penalty against Benedict gave SSU a first down at the 31-yard line. On the next play, Gibbons raced around the corner and scored on a 31-yard run for the game-winning touchdown with 1:24 left.
Benedict had one last chance, and moved the ball down the field and managed the clock with quick sideline passes. A pass interference penalty on Savannah State gave the Tigers the ball at the 14-yard line, but Phoenix was flushed out of the pocket on the next play and threw an interception at the 4-yard line with just 13 seconds left. Savannah State ran out the clock to seal the victory.
“We have to learn from the good and forget about the bad,” Berry said. “But I’m proud of my football team and how they fought to the end.”
Savannah State built a 27-13 lead at the half as they were able to work their option running game for big pickups. Savannah State finished the game with 284 yards rushing, with Gibbons leading the way with 138 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.
“They fixed it in halftime,” Berry said. “That’s our job as coaches to fix the problems and our players have got to go out and make plays. They really persevered in the second half and did much better in the second half. It just didn’t go our way in the end.”
Phoenix completed 21-of-36 passes for 306 yards, and was intercepted twice. He did rush for a pair of touchdowns in his homecoming contest in front of dozens of family and friends.
“I didn’t play as good as I wanted to,” Phoenix said. “I was trying to get the ball to my playmakers. They played well. We just didn’t get the outcome we wanted.”
Berry said Phoenix played well and has a bright future with the Tigers.
“He played well, he played hard, he fought to the end,” Berry said. “I thought he did some really good things. He’s still learning and growing. He’s got amazing talent. He’s a talented dual-threat quarterback that can make every throw, he can run, and he’s poised out there. We’re going to continue to work with him and get him better, but we love the direction of Eric Phoenix.”