(COURTESY FORT VALLEY STATE SPORTS INFORMATION)
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Fort Valley State University scored 20 points off a pair
of blocked punts and an interception return, and then held off a late
Benedict rally to defeat the Tigers 35-30 in the annual Augusta City
Benedict, now 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the SIAC, was held to -16 yards rushing on the day, although quarterback Marcus Graham was sacked four times and had -32 yards rushing on 11 attempts. Graham completed 15-of-42 passes for 283 yards and three touchdowns, but also threw three interceptions.
"We cannot start off slow, we can't give up points, and we are so inconsistent at times," Benedict coach James Woody said. "We've got to be more consistent passing early. We just made too many mistakes again. You can't beat a good football team like Fort Valley making the mistakes like that. We've got to be more consistent and protect the football."
Woody said there were missed blocking assignments on both blocked punts.
"It's young mistakes. That's no excuse. We practiced it all week. But we can't allow to give two touchdowns like that on punt blocks. That just can't happen."
Fort Valley State held a 35-17 lead after Jonquez Sanders scored on a 4-yard run with 6:08 left in the third quarter.
Benedict's Rodney Hall intercepted a Chris Brumfield pass in the fourth quarter and returned it 33 yards to set up the Tigers at the FVSU 31. On fourth-and-eight from the 29-yard line, Graham connected with Harlon Samuels for a touchdown. After Eduardo Hernandez's PAT, the Tigers trailed 35-24 with 9:18 left in the game
The Wildcats punted on their next possession, and the Tigers drove 88
yards on nine plays to score again. The drive was kept alive when FVSU
was called for a roughing the kicker penalty, giving the Tigers a first
down. On fourth down, Graham threw a pass to Maurice Griffin
on the left side. Griffin shook off his defender and raced 62 yards for
a touchdown. Benedict failed to convert on the two-point conversion
attempt when Graham fumbled the ball, making it 35-30 with 4:49 left in
Benedict recovered the ball on the ensuing onside kickoff, but the Tigers' hopes were dashed when, facing a fourth-and-21, Graham threw to Samuels for a 19-yard pickup. Samuels stretched for the first-down marker, but was marked short.
"They're fighters," Woody said of his team's late comeback. "They're not going to give up. They're very competitive and they didn't give up."
Fort Valley State (2-2, 2-0 SIAC) opened the scoring by blocking a Benedict punt on the Tigers' first offensive possession. Benedict blocked the PAT, and the Tigers trailed 6-0 after just three minutes into the game.
The Wildcats added another touchdown on a 9-yard pass from Eugene Smith to Jamie Walker for a 13-0 lead with 1:21 left in the first quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Rodney Hall caught the ball at the 10 and returned it 90 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown.
Benedict pulled ahead 14-13 early in the second quarter after Martin Epps intercepted a Smith pass and returned it 47 yards to the FVSU 5. On third down, Graham threw a 5-yard pass to Thomas Gillie Jr. for a touchdown.
The Tigers got a 36-yard field goal by Hernandez with 9:10 left in the first half to make it 17-13.
Fort Valley State drove to the Benedict 6 later in the quarter, but went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 6. Epps broke up the pass in the end zone, giving the ball back over to the Tigers. But Benedict couldn't move the ball and Benedict punter Brian Curry had his second punt attempt of the game blocked, and Fort Valley State's Calvin Jackson recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. The Wildcats went for two, and Smith connected with Kyle Taylor for the conversion, giving the Wildcats a 21-17 lead with 59 seconds left in the half.
On Benedict's first play of the second half, Graham was intercepted by FVSU's Ja'Bioas Glenn, who returned it 34 yards and a touchdown, giving the Wildcats a 28-17 lead with 14:44 left in the quarter.
The Wildcats increased the lead to 35-17 with 6:18 left in the third on Sanders' 4-yard touchdown run.
Epps, an Augusta native, was named the Benedict MVP after recording a team-high seven tackles, an interception and three pass breakups.
The Tigers take on Miles College next week in the first game of the season at Charlie W. Johnson Stadium. Kickoff is 2 p.m.
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