WSSU rip Bulldogs, win fourth straight

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Winston-Salem State defensive lineman Alfy Hill celebrates after a turnover. (Lauren Carroll/Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Winston-Salem State continued to steamroll through the CIAA with another convincing victory.

The Rams smothered Bowie State 56-21 in front of 5,000 on Saturday at Bowman Gray Stadium.

“We’re clicking on all cylinders right now and that’s great to see,” said wide receiver Eric Wolff of the Rams, who was one of four players to catch a touchdown pass from quarterback Rudy Johnson.

The Rams fell behind 7-6 early in the second quarter but that was the only ray of light for the Bulldogs, who dropped to 2-3 and 0-2 in the CIAA. The Rams scored on three straight possessions to end the first half with a 28-7 lead.

The Rams (4-1, 2-0), ranked No. 16 in NCAA Division II, had a 49-7 lead by the end of the third quarter.

Coach Connell Maynor of WSSU said that generating nearly 700 yards of offense was a testament to the improvement he’s seen in practice. The 690 total yards were the most this season; the Rams averaged 8.5 yards a play.

“We have improved in a lot of areas and the offensive line is one area that we’ve seen it,” Maynor said. “And Rudy is making good decisions and the receivers are running good routes. Now, we still have a lot of room for improvement….”

It’s going to be hard for the Rams to improve on Saturday’s performance. They scored seven touchdowns on their first nine possessions with Johnson — who is now 4-0 as a starter — doing most of the damage. Johnson completed 20 of 36 passes for a career-high 390 yards and tied his career-high with four touchdown passes.

“I can’t say enough about how good the line blocked and gave me time,” said Johnson, who also rushed for a team-high 73 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries. He accounted for six of the Rams’ eight touchdowns.

One of Johnson’s best decisions came on a 22-yard run up the middle at the end the first half. On a fourth-down play with 10 seconds left, he took a Shotgun snap, stepped back, then saw a lane up the middle and went all the way to score with four seconds left.

“These last two games we’ve really gotten after it in practice and the coaches have made it a point to tell us that if you practice well, you play well,” Johnson said. “And that’s the mentality that we have to have for the rest of the year.”

Coach Damon Wilson of the Bulldogs could only shrug when asked if the Rams’ depth was a factor on a hot afternoon.

“Obviously, you saw the game,” Wilson said. “When you can bring in four new defensive linemen each series, then that shows you what they have over there. They were physical the whole game.”

Wilson said he was pleased that quarterback Trevon Bennett, who made his first career start, got the Bulldogs going in the right direction early in the game. They just couldn’t sustain any rhythm once the Rams’ offense got going.

“Winston was very physical,” said Bennett, who completed 14 of 28 passes for 123 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns. “They didn’t really surprise me on defense but they are a pretty good ballclub. They showed why they are the two-time defending champions.”

Wolff said his aching knees felt great with temperatures around 90 degrees. He had a team-best six catches for 116 yards and scored on a 30-yard pass for the Rams’ first score.

“When it’s hot like this my knees feel very good and I thought I would be ready to go,” Wolff said.

As for the rest of the offense, Wolff said it’s a matter of doing all the little things.

“When we focus on taking care of what we need to take care of, we have a productive offense,” he said.

Also catching touchdown passes were Chase Powell, Tehvyn Brantley and tight end Shane Blue, who went 49 yards down the middle for a score that made it 49-7 late in the third quarter.

Defensive lineman Duvontae Covington said that sustaining the roll that the Rams are on is a must in order to get back to the Division II national-championship game.

“We aren’t going to overlook anybody and we want to play hard for 60 minutes,” Covington said. “We are just getting started — so we don’t expect to have any letdown next week.”

The Rams will play Johnson C. Smith at Bowman Gray Stadium on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

By John Dell/Winston-Salem Journal