Saturday, November 26, 2022

Wingate Seals Trip to National Quarterfinals After 23-6 Road Win Over Benedict

COLUMBIA, SC – The 22nd-ranked Wingate University Bulldogs won their second road playoff game in as many weeks on Saturday afternoon, led by yet another strong defensive effort in a 23-6 victory at top-seeded seventh-ranked Benedict College in NCAA Division II second-round playoff football action. The Bulldogs improve to 11-2 overall and advance to next week's national quarterfinal, while the Tigers end their season at 11-1.

Wingate opened with an eight-play opening drive, but the field goal try missed wide left. The Tigers went three-and-out in their opening possession. Wingate's drive stalled, but Evans downed the punt at the Tigers' eight-yard line. Cook and Fleming teamed for a third-down sack on the ensuing possession and a 17-yard Simmons return on the punt set up Wingate deep in BC territory. Crocker found Simmons for the 27-yard TD on the first play of the drive to give Wingate a 7-0 lead. The teams traded punts for the remainder of the opening quarter.

Benedict hit a 47-yard pass play on their first play of the second quarter to get into the red zone. Mullen intercepted Eric Phoenix in the end zone to keep the Tigers scoreless. The Bulldogs then went on a seven-play, 85-yard drive. Wilson started it with a 29-yard run, while a seven-yard run set the Bulldogs up inside the Benedict 30. Crocker found Grant for a 27-yard touchdown to make it 14-0 with 9:29 to go. Benedict's ensuing drive went nine plays but was cut off by a Morrison interception deep in Wingate territory. After Wingate punted, a Cook sack backed up the Tigers to their own five-yard line. Spain blocked the punt, which resulted in a safety, as Wingate extended the lead to 16-0 with 2:09 left. The Tigers' field goal attempt at the end of the half was blocked by Cook to keep the shutout alive through 30 minutes of action.

Wingate WR Kamal Desor Scores the Touchdown
Photo Credit: Hugh Patton

The Tigers opened the second half with possession but immediately went three and out. Daniel Morrison started the possession with a five-yard TFL, followed by a Rhodes and Cook sack. Wingate drove the ball into BC territory, but a 48-yard field goal missed wide left. Benedict could not take advantage, however, going three and out yet again capped by a Horne and Fleming sack. The Bulldogs again drove the ball into Tiger territory but came up incomplete on a fourth and one. Benedict got on the board in their next drive, going 56 yards in nine plays, cashing in on a nine-yard pass from Phoenix to Elijah Watson. The extra point was no good, as the Tigers cut the deficit to 16-6 with 2:21 left in the quarter. Wingate's second play on their next drive was intercepted and a 38-yard return set BC up at the Wingate 35.

On a fourth and one from the Wingate 26-yard line, BC chose to go for it and tackled for no gain by Justin Rhodes, giving it back to the Bulldogs. The teams traded punts on their next two drives. Wingate took over at its own 24 with 11:47 remaining. Crocker hit Grant and Simmons to get it into Benedict territory. A 25-yard strike to Myles Dillon set the Bulldogs up in the red zone. Crocker hit Desor from 21 yards out to cap the 76-yard TD drive and make it 23-6. The Tigers responded, driving down to a first and goal at the Wingate five-yard line. Wingate pushed BC back one yard over the next four plays, turning the ball over back to their offense when a 4th and goal from the five-yard line came up short for the Tigers. The Bulldogs proceeded to run the clock and out, advancing to their first national quarterfinal appearance in program history.


The Bulldogs travel to Pensacola, Fla. next Saturday. In its first trip ever to the national quarterfinals, Wingate will face #6 West Florida in the Super Region 2 championship game. The winner advances to the national semifinals.