Fayetteville State 17,
Bowie State 14
-- Two turnovers that led to touchdowns by Fayetteville State cost Bowie State in its bid for a conference championship today.
Fayetteville State won its first CIAA championship, 17-14, in its eighth straight victory. In a game played in a steady downpour, Bowie State's stagnant offense never found its footing.
"Obviously, we are all disappointed because we worked hard to get to this point," Bowie State linebacker Atcheson Conway said. "We played our hearts out there today."
The 16th-ranked Broncos (10-1, 8-0 CIAA) will likely be selected Sunday for the 16-team Division II playoffs.
Quarterback Te'Mon Wallace, despite nine fumbled snap exchanges, was 12 for 18 for 208 yards and two touchdowns. None of the fumbles was lost, and Fayetteville didn't commit any turnovers, which Bowie State Coach Henry Frazier said made the difference.
"Turnovers played a key, and we knew that special teams were going to be a big factor and when we muffed that punt inside the 10 that was the difference in the ballgame," said Frazier, whose team (6-5, 5-3) will play in the Pioneer Bowl on Dec. 15 in Tampa against Tuskegee, its first postseason appearance since 1989.
The Broncos were clinging to a 10-6 lead midway through the third quarter and were forced to punt, with Kevin Nesbit back to receive. After calling for a fair catch at the 10-yard line, Nesbit fumbled, and Brian Holliday recovered for the Broncos.
Three plays later Carnell Thornton caught a six-yard pass from Wallace, and after the extra point, the Broncos had a 17-6 lead with 6 minutes 7 seconds left in the third quarter.
With the Bulldogs' passing game virtually nonexistent, the responsibility fell to the running game, led by fullback Julius Jordan. With Maurice Hill replacing starting quarterback Jabali Smith in the second half, the Bulldogs finally started to move the ball in the fourth quarter.
Jordan, who powered his way to 102 yards on 19 carries, scored his second touchdown of the game with 6:44 to play on a three-yard run. Hill then ran in for a two-point conversion that cut the margin to 17-14.
The Bulldogs got the ball back twice, but couldn't move it. On the last play of the game, from their 40-yard line, Hill eluded two tacklers and tried to heave a long pass down the far sideline but it fell incomplete as time expired.
"I think that dropped punt down there when they recovered and later scored was the difference," Conway said. "And they fumbled the snap several times and we didn't get any of them. That made a huge difference because we weren't able to take advantage of any turnovers, and that's part of our game as a defensive unit."
Frazier said that the Broncos jumping out to the lead in the first quarter was pivotal.
"In a game like this with the weather conditions that they are, the team that scores first normally wins," Frazier said.