Central State University gave new head coach Cedric Pearl his first win, 28-18 over Clark Atlanta University in the Marauder Classic Saturday afternoon at McPherson Memorial Stadium.
“First game being a head coach, there is nothing sweeter than calling victory (formation),” Pearl said after CSU won its first season opener at home since 1996. “Our kids worked their butts off. The coaches did a great job calling the game and the players did a great job of playing the game.”
Dashad Tucker returned a CAU punt 55 yards down the sideline in the fourth quarter to set the Marauders up at the Panther 10. After going nowhere the first two plays, Isaiah Grooms scooted in from 10 yards out for a 28-12 lead.
The Panthers answered with a long drive to get within 28-18 with 9:32 remaining but never got the ball back.
Both offenses came out firing as the Marauders led 21-12 at the half.
Central State scored on its first two possessions of the season to take a 14-3 lead with 4:17 left in the first quarter.
On third down from the Marauders’ own 32, quarterback Terrance Wafford hit Leon Chambers across the middle for a 68-yard strike and the first points. Wafford bulled in behind his line from the 1 for the second score, but CAU came back.
“Our receivers were making big plays,” Wafford said. “All I had to do was get the ball to them. This feels good. It has been a long time coming.”
The Panthers capitalized on some Marauder penalties to score on their first three possessions to cut the deficit to 14-12 before the CSU defense got into the act.
With CAU driving, Artrell McKillan recovered a fumble at the Panther 45 with :14 left in the half. Two plays later, Wafford connected down the sideline with Christopher Murray as time expired to push the lead to nine at the break.
The teams combined for 509 yards in the first half with CSU holding a 278-231 advantage thanks in large part to Wafford hitting nine of 15 passes for 213 yards.
“This is the first game Terrance has started since high school,” Pearl said. “It was a chess match and he did a nice job making some adjustments to what they were doing.”
Central State (1-0) will face Texas Southern University in the Bahamas HBCUX Classic Saturday and doesn’t play at home again until Oct. 18 against Concordia College on homecoming.