Nicholas Cooper rushed for three touchdowns and Kameron Smith threw for two more as no. 3 Winston-Salem State held off 15th-ranked California (Pa.), 35-28, in an NCAA Division II second round playoff game at Bowman-Gray Stadium Saturday.
The Rams (12-0) will host New Haven (11-1) in the quarterfinals next Saturday at noon.
Cooper, who ran for 118 yards on 20 carries, scored on runs of six, one and one yards. Smith connected with Cedric Hickman for a six-yard score and, later, with Jamal Williams from 26 yards out to give the Rams a 28-14 lead at the half.
Smith completed 20 of 33 passes for 267 yards and one interception.He also lost two fumbles that led to two Vulcans (10-3) touchdowns, including a 17-yard scoring pass from quarterback Peter Lalich to receiver Lamont Smith for the second consecutive series. That TD made the score 35-28 as the third period ended.
Cooper began the scoring in the first quarter with his six-yard run.That followed Cal’s first series that ended when Jonathan Setzer intercepted Lalich at the Cal 20.
California (Pa.) struck back quickly, though and took a 14-7 lead. Jeff Knox scampered into the end zone on runs of six and four yards. His second run came after the Vulcans’ Eric Livsey recovered Smith’s fumble.
In the second quarter, Cooper ran it in from a yard out, but the PAT failed wide right and the Rams trailed 14-13.
Smith then hit Cedric Hickman for a six-yard score and followed it up with Jerry Chandler’s two-point conversion pass that gave WSSU a 21-14 lead.
Williams 26-yard TD reception gave WSSU a 28-14 halftime lead.
Cooper scored his final touchdown early in the third quarter.
California (Pa.) then mounted a comeback when Lalich finally found his favorite target, Lamont Smith, from seven yards and then 17 yards.
Neither team scored in the fourth quarter. California’s first possession of the final period ended with Alton Keaton’s block of Vulcan kicker Cody Nuzzo’s 30-yard field goal.
Smith, meanwhile, was picked off by Marcus Cook, ending the Rams’ drive to pad their lead.
Fortunately for the Rams, California was unable to get anything else going, allowing WSSU to run out the clock.
(10) Old Dominion 35, (22) Norfolk State 18
Chris Walley threw for 363 yards and two touchdowns, but it was a case of too little, too late as the Spartans (9-3) fell, 35-18, to the Monarchs (10-2) in a Football Championship Series first-round playoff game Saturday.
The game marked the first playoff appearance in the FCS for either school.
The Spartans’ first appearance got off to a record-breaking start. Quarterback Chris Walley, his team backed up on their own two-yard line, connected with Derrick Demps on a 98-yard pass-play, the longest in school history.
Unfortunately, it was all ODU until the fourth quarter.
Taylor Heinicke, the Monarchs’ freshman signal caller, tossed five touchdown passes. He found Nick Mayers twice, Prentice Gill twice and Larry Pinkard once.
Norfolk State, a crosstown rival to ODU five miles away, did not score again until the fourth quarter on a 48-yard field goal by Everett Goldberg.
Walley later found Victor Hairston from five yards out. He then converted a two-point run.
Old Dominion will travel to Paulson Stadium in Statesboro, Georgia to take on Georgia Southern in the second round Dec. 3 at 1 p.m.