WILBERFORCE – This was a wet one for Central State.
And that’s not just referring to the game-long drizzle and soggy field the Marauders overcame to stun Tuskegee, 40-36, Saturday at McPherson Stadium.
It’s a nod to CSU head Cedric Pearl, who had tears rolling down his cheeks as a small crowd cheered him as he came off the field:
“That’s the way you win, Coach!”
“That’s what victory feels like!”
The Marauders last beat Tuskegee 70 years ago. Over the last five seasons – reunited with the Golden Tigers in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference – they had dropped five straight by a combined score of 175-56. Last season Tuskegee trounced them, 45-0.
Saturday though, CSU jumped to a quick 7-0 lead just 1:40 into the game, then fought back from a 14-point deficit in the third quarter thanks to a key fourth-down stop by defensive lineman Shemar Moss and an explosive offense that now has amassed 1,110 yards in its last two games.
Receiver Kevin Greenhow had seven catches for 207 yards and two touchdowns, this following 11 catches for an NCAA Division II school record 275 yards in a 49-45 loss at Robert Morris a week ago.
Quarterback Trent Mays threw for 375 yards and three scores and running back Terraris Saffold had 110 yards rushing, 127 yards receiving and scored twice.
“Hands down this is the biggest win we’ve had since I’ve been here,” a still tearful Pearl, who played football at Tuskegee and is in his fifth year at CSU, said as he headed toward the dressing room.
“They’re the No 1 defense in the nation and we just put up 40 on them.
“They’re the defending SIAC champs, too, and, like they say, ‘To be the man, you gotta beat the man’ and today we did.”
When he walked through the dressing room door his team was waiting for him., Players mobbed him and cheered and suddenly the room filled with NBA YoungBoy’s “War With Us.”
Everyone was singing and dancing and in the middle Pearl tried to keep up.
Eventually Greenhow, who just joined the team this season after playing two years at Hocking Community College, one of which when Mays was the quarterback there – stepped off to the side and marveled at the scene:
“When I came here from JUCO, I had a lot on my shoulders at first, but Trent is like my brother and we know each other and I settled in. Coach said if I just do my job, good things will happen.”
He opened the game with a 69-yard reception that resulted in a 1-yard TD burst by Saffold a couple of plays later and set the tone for 4-5 Marauders.
It was a day full of plays like that caused Pearl to weep.
“I just wanted it so bad for these kids and this program,” he said. “We work so hard to be successful, but you’re always seeing sorrow and pain. To finally see joy on their faces, that’s what overcame me.”
And while it brought out the emotion, it didn’t quite bring on the dance moves.
“I tried, but this old knee wouldn’t let me,” he laughed. “You see they had me hidden in the middle so nobody saw.”