Gameday Preview: Tuskegee at West Georgia
1. “I haven’t forgotten about last year”: Tuskegee’s Division II national quarterfinals matchup features a familiar foe in West Georgia. UWG defeated the Golden Tigers 20-17 in the first round last year in Tuskegee, and now they have a chance to return the favor. Not that the team needs any extra motivation, but senior receiver Travis Hawkins said the rematch adds to the game’s intensity.
“I haven’t forgotten about last year. Definitely motivated, definitely hungry. They’re the team everybody’s trying to beat. They’re on top,” Hawkins said. “I don’t think many people are expecting us to win, and that’s how I like it. But I know I’m ready, I know my team’s ready, and I’m excited to play them.”
2. The ultimate goal: It’s been a historic year for Tuskegee coach Willie Slater. He moved to second place in school history in wins, and led the team to its first playoff win in school history. It’s tough to reflect in the middle of a playoff run, but Slater said this year’s team has accomplished the “ultimate goal.”
“Our ultimate goal has been to win in the playoffs. That’s what we started off the year saying. We wanted to get into a position where we could win the playoffs. Honestly, I felt we were a year away. But I think they see now, ‘We can win in the playoffs. Those guys we’re playing against, they put their pads on one at a time just like we do,’” Slater said.
“We’re playing a great team, I feel like one of the best teams in the whole country. But as crazy as it sounds, we’re kind of excited about it. They have like 26 Division I players, guys that’ve played Division I football. So that’s what we’re up against. Which makes our kids excited because they get a chance to play against the best and see how good they really are. I think we have some good players too. It’s going to be an interesting game.”
3. One to remember: Tuskegee won its second-round matchup with some late-game drama last week. After throwing four interceptions, quarterback Kevin Lacey delivered when it mattered most, hitting Desmond Reece for a 33-yard gain down to the 2-yard line with less than 30 seconds to play to set up the game-winning touchdown. Proving he could deliver in the clutch turned Lacey’s game from one to forget to one to never forget.
“It was probably the best throw I’ve had since I’ve been throwing a football. Many people would feel excited. But for me when I saw him catch it, it was more of a weight being lifted off my shoulders. It was a relief because, after the day I had, it was one to forget. But I don’t want to forget that day because I know if it comes to a crunch situation, I know I can do it,” Lacey said. “Even if I’ve had a terrible day, it doesn’t matter. It’s all what you do in the moment. If you take advantage of the moment and don’t let the past get to you. That throw, it really felt like I had someone standing on my shoulders, and it was a huge relief. I was just grateful we could get down there and score, especially after the day I had.”
4. Humbled and hungry: No one wants to blow a big lead against a rival, but that’s what happened to the Golden Tigers in the regular-season finale against Miles. It knocked Tuskegee out of the conference championship, but it may have actually been a good thing. Instead of pouting after the loss, Hawkins said the team has rallied around the disappointment during the playoff run.
“I think it humbled us to lose, especially a game that we had one where we just didn’t finish. So it humbled us. I feel like in the past I’ve seen our team go two ways: We either take that negatively and feel bad for ourselves, or we get hungry and we fight harder. I feel like that’s what we’re doing,” Hawkins said. “Since that Miles loss, we’ve come back and just are hungry, more determined. We’re humble and we just remember that feeling. So it’s definitely in the back of our heads, but we’re looking ahead and excited to see what God has planned for us. I know good things are coming.”
Tuskegee DE Julian Morgan vs. UWG QB Dallas Dickey
Dickey is a two-year starter, and the best rushing quarterback in school history. He ran for a 9-yard touchdown to win last week’s game, and will be tough for the speedy Morgan to wrap up. Morgan has 91/2 sacks this season in 12 games, but will face his toughest test of the season in the quarterfinals.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
QB, Jr., 6-6, 175
Lacey delivered when it was crunch time last week, but he’ll have to be more efficient against West Georgia. Another four-interception game won’t cut it in the quarterfinals, and he knows that. This offense will run as smoothly as he does, and the experienced junior should bring his “A” game.
This is a team on a mission. Tuskegee has an experienced quarterback that’s delivered in the clutch, a game-breaking running back and three experienced wide receivers. On defense, playmakers across the board can rush the passer and get their hands on the ball. It’s a tough task going into West Georgia and winning on the road, but the Golden Tigers have all the ingredients to win. A late-game defensive stand allows Tuskegee to move on to the semifinals.
Tuskegee 21, West Georgia 20
WHEN: 11 a.m. Saturday
WHERE: University Stadium, Carrollton, Ga.
RECORDS: Tuskegee (10-2, 7-1 SIAC); West Georgia (11-1, 6-1 Gulf South)
ON THE AIR: None
TWITTER: @mgmsports @MyTUAthletics
BY THE NUMBERS
3: West Georgia beat Tuskegee by three points (20-17) in last year’s playoff game.
39: Dennis Norfleet has run 39 times in the past two games, 37.5 percent of his carries this year.
150: Tuskegee is 9-1 when holding opponents under 150 rushing yards this season.
Tuskegee football: Can’t measure Morgan’s heart
Tuskegee defensive end Julian Morgan has 91/2 sacks for the Golden Tigers this season.
TUSKEGEE — It’s funny the way things work out. Tuskegee didn’t even recruit defensive end Julian Morgan out of high school, and now he’s one of its best players.
It’s not that Tuskegee coach Willie Slater didn’t know who Morgan was. He actually met him at Lithia Springs (Georgia) High School when he was recruiting Morgan’s teammate, linebacker Joseph Ross.
But Morgan never got a scholarship offer. Why?
“His size,” Slater said.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior doesn’t look like your typical defensive end. He played quarterback in high school. So Morgan played his freshman year at Arkansas-Pine Bluff before he got a chance to go to the place he wanted all along.
“I’ve been coming to homecoming since I was 5. I had uncles graduate from here, I’ve had a lot of family come through Tuskegee, so I’ve always loved Tuskegee. It didn’t really bother me. It was sore feelings at first, but it wasn’t too bad,” Morgan said. “I was like, ‘I can’t let that chance go to waste.’”
So Morgan joined the Golden Tigers as a sophomore, and led the team with 91/2 sacks despite being “too small.” He’s proven it was no fluke this season, as he’s racked up 91/2 sacks again despite missing two games with an injury.
“I’m glad he didn’t give up on us,” Slater said. “He’s kind of proven himself. Guys like that, you can’t measure their heart. You can say they’re undersized and all that stuff, but you can’t measure his heart and his willingness to work hard. He has all of the intangibles.”
Morgan played his best last game, leading the team with 12 tackles and two sacks to help defeat North Alabama in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs.
Playing with a chip on his shoulder his whole career, Morgan intends to keep it going against West Georgia in the quarterfinals this week, a rematch of Tuskegee’s first-round playoff game last year.
“I remember they felt like they were going to do whatever they wanted to us the entire game. They took us lightly and we shocked them, so that’s what I remember. This year, since we shocked everybody else, they’re going to be a little more serious. I think they took us as a joke coming into the game, but I don’t think that we’ll be taken as a joke again,” Morgan said.
West Georgia defeated Tuskegee 20-17 last season in Tuskegee’s first home playoff game ever. Morgan is more than willing to return the favor.
“It adds a lot of oil to this fire we’re starting over here. Not a lot of motivation is needed
for this game. It’s going to be who wants it the most. All I can say is, we’re ready,” Morgan said.
Go Golden Tigers!