In the only NCAA bowl game involving historically black universities (HBCUs), all-American tailback Daronte McNeill scored two fourth quarter touchdowns in route to Pioneer Bowl XIV MVP honors as the Elizabeth City State University Vikings toppled Tuskegee University 28-13 Saturday afternoon at AJ McClung Stadium.
The victory over the Golden Tigers marks the first post season football win for the Vikings since their lone CIAA championship back in 1971. Before Saturday, the Vikings were 0-3 in the NCAA playoffs (1981, 2006, 2011) and lost in their only other Pioneer Bowl appearance back in 2009 to Tuskegee 21-7.
The 28 points scored by the Vikings on Saturday are the most any team has put up against the Golden Tigers this season. Tuskegee finishes the season 10-2 overall; their first loss of the year came in their season opener, 7-6 to Alabama A&M.
The Golden Tigers got on the board first with a TD by Rashard Burkette from 19 yards out with 2:37 left in the first half. The extra point was blocked by Nigel Rios and Tuskegee led 6-0 at the intermission.
It was a defensive battle most of the afternoon and in the end two big plays by senior cornerback Josh Brooks that proved to be the difference in the game for the Vikings. ECSU got their first touchdown of the day with 1:06 left in the third quarter on a 9-yard pass from Tyrell Houghton to Antonio Huff and the Vikings took the lead 7-6. TU took over at their 28 yard line, ran two plays and faced 3rd down and a yard to go as the fourth quarter began.
On the very first play of the fourth quarter TU All-American tailback Derrick Washington broke for what appeared to be a sure 63 yard rushing touchdown. However he only got 62 yards as Brooks forced a fumble through the back of the end zone just before Anderson crossed the goal-line for a touchback, giving the Vikings 1st and 10 at their 20 yard line.
ECSU then drove the ball 80 yards on 14 plays capped by McNeill’s first touchdown of the day, a 14 yard score took a 14-6 lead. The Vikings defense then denied the Golden Tigers on 4th down and went back on offense with 6:25 left in the game.
Three plays later McNeill scampered for a 44 yard score and a 21-6 lead.
Tuskegee continued to rally with an 80 yard, 11 play drive that consumed only 1:57 seconds and with a 6 yard TD pass from Justin Nared to Marquel Gardner, the Golden Tigers trimmed the Viking lead to 21-13 with 2:41 left.
ECSU began their next drive at their 26 yard line but gained minus 4 yards while Tuskegee preserved clock by burning all three of their timeouts. The Vikings punted the ball away and after a short return the Golden Tigers took possession at their 37 yard line with 2:01 left on the clock.
Seven plays into the drive the Tigers had 1st and 10 at the ECSU 22 when Nared’s pass was picked off by Brooks and returned for 80 yards for the game clinching score.
In the battle of two All-American tailbacks, both Washington and McNeill both lived up to their billing. Washington was named the SIAC Game MVP for his 20 carry, 185 yard performance while McNeill capped his brilliant four-year college career with 19 carries for 148 yards and two scores.
Defensively, the Vikings surrendered 514 yards of total offense to Tuskegee, but kept the Golden Tigers out of the end zone when it mattered most. Tuskegee was 2-4 in red zone chances on the afternoon and misfired on two field goal attempts. One pulled wide left in the second quarter while the other attempt was blocked by Nigel Rios to stall TU’s second half opening drive. Rios finished the day with 9 total tackles, a sack for a loss of 8 yards, a forced fumble, 2 pass breakups and two blocked kicks.
Justin Beatty topped all ECSU defenders with a team high 10 tackles (7 solo, 3 assisted) while El Malik Chinn finished with a game high 18 tackles (10 solo).
The Vikings wrap up the 2012 season 8-4 overall.