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Siac Champs of 2009
Sporting News Release: November 7, 2009 Tuskegee 41, Stillman 14: Golden Tigers win fourth consecutive SIAC title Freshman RB Xavier Bacon Freshman RB Xavier Bacon Sophomore QB Joshua Harris Sophomore QB Joshua Harris Tuskegee University, Alabama - (November 7, 2009) -
Unlike other college football programs, the Golden Tigers don’t just win championships – they seem to collect them. They added to their collection Saturday with a 41-14 Homecoming victory against Stillman College at Cleve L. Abbott Alumni Stadium, which gave them their fourth consecutive SIAC championship and 28th overall. In the process, Willie Slater became the first coach in school history to win conference titles each of his first four seasons. Slater won the first three crowns of his regime by relying on All-Conference quarterbacks Kevin Huff and Jacary Atkinson. This time around, the Golden Tigers didn\'t have that luxury of knowing they had a difference-maker under center. Yet they got the same results, and Slater says this year’s championship, while perhaps not as aesthetically pleasing, ranks just as high as the other three. “Each of them has its own special place,’’ said Slater, after improving his career record to 40-5.
The 40 wins are the most ever for a Golden Tigers coach in his first four seasons. The victory improved the Golden Tigers’ record to 8-2 overall and 8-1 in the SIAC. It also allowed the 13 seniors who played their final home game to fulfill a goal they set as freshmen as they joined a select group of college football players who have won four conference championships. “We knew we wanted to do something great,’’ cornerback Justin Hannah, a preseason All-SIAC pick, said, thinking back to the first day of training camp for him and the eight other four-year seniors on the squad. “From that day on, it was all about being where you’re supposed to be and doing what you’re supposed to do.’’ Hannah said the 2009 title “is more important (than the three previous ones) because the last one is always the one you remember.’’ The Golden Tigers took a different road to the 2009 championship than they did en route to their three most recent titles. They were not the favorite to win the crown. That distinction went to Albany State, which had finished second to the Golden Tigers three consecutive times.
Following a rash of early season injuries, and a loss to Miles College in the second game of the season – which ended their 17-game conference winning streak – the preseason prognostication appeared to be accurate. However, the Golden Tigers held together and ran off an eight-game conference winning streak. “We did a good coaching job,’’ Slater said. “Nothing came easy.’’ That was the case as the Golden Tigers defeated Stillman for their fifth time in as many games in the series with 28,973 fans packed into Abbott Stadium. They dominated the contest with a bruising running game that produced a season-high 305 yards and a rock solid defense that limited Stillman to 193 yards. However, they didn\'t take command of the game until freshman Xavier Bacon’s 63-yard touchdown run with 2:53 left in the third quarter. Bacon’s score, his second touchdown of the game, gave the Golden Tigers a 28-14 lead. Stillman had managed to stay in the game on the strength of a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Quinn Porter and Mike Ricks’ touchdown on a pass interception as the Golden Tigers began the game sluggishly, especially on offense. “We had so many distractions,’’ Slater said, alluding to the plethora of activities on campus during the week. “It was hard to avoid them. We knew we would be sluggish. But we hung in there.’’ Quarterback Joshua Harris, making his second career start in place of redshirt freshman Jeremy Williams who is coming back from a bruised shoulder, had a hot hand in the first half. Harris was 9-for-10 in the first half and threw for 167 yards and a touchdown, a 33-yard strike to Antoine Mitchell on the Golden Tigers’ first possession that put them ahead 7-0. However, mistakes and missed opportunities prevented the Golden Tigers from pulling away. “We went hard all week. We knew what they were going to do, and we took advantage of it,’’ Harris said, explaining his hot first half. “The coaches put us in that position.” Harris finished the game with 189 passing yards and three touchdowns to complement the Golden Tigers\' rushing attack while running the offense efficiently. “I expected that,’’ Slater said of Harris’ performance. “He’s a good one. He didn’t complain (while playing behind Williams). It’s his turn now, and he has done well.’’ But it was the running game that ultimately enabled the Golden Tigers to improve their Homecoming record to 64-18-1. “The offensive line did a job,’’ Slater said, “and the running backs ran hard.’’ Five Golden Tiger runners rushed for 30 or more yards. Bacon was their top rusher with 95 yards on just six carries. John Pascley rushed four times for 66 yards. Markus Douglas was the workhorse with 10 carries for 52 yards. The Golden Tigers averaged 6.5 yards per rush. The Golden Tigers’ defense had another stifling performance and has not been scored on in the last two games. Porter entered the game as the leading rusher in the SIAC with 1,005 yards, but he was held to just 64 yards on 18 carries. Stillman’s offense drove past midfield just twice and never reached the red zone. Stillman’s deepest penetration was to the Golden Tigers’ 24 on the first possession of the third quarter. The drive ended when linebacker Kelvin Robbins forced a fumble and Brian King, his running mate at linebacker, recovered the ball. “Our defense played absolutely awesome,’’ Slater said. “Our defense has played awesome the last three weeks. This week (Stillman) didn’t come close to scoring on us.’’
The Golden Tigers close out the season against Alabama State in the Turkey Day Classic at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Ala., Thanksgiving Day. They will be seeking to avenge a controversial 17-13 loss that ended their school-record 26-game winning streak last year and cost them their second consecutive Black College National Championship.
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