Teetering on the brink of a second-half meltdown, J.C. Smith’s defense provided the will to win.
The Golden Bulls converted a pair of Bowie State turnovers into 14 fourth-quarter points, including an 84-yard interception return for a score by Damion Miles to lock down a 58-41 win Saturday in the Eddie McGirt Classic. After nearly blowing a 23-point lead, J.C. Smith (2-0, 1-0 CIAA) converted defensive end Chris Randolph’s 37-yard fumble return to the Bowie State 9 into Keahn Wallace’s 1-yard plunge for a 37-28 bulge with 7 minutes, 27 seconds left.
“I’m not going to lie. I was real tired,” said Randolph, a senior who finished with six tackles and 1 ½ sacks. “As soon as I saw it on the ground, I scooped it up and tried to run as fast as I could. I tried to stiff-arm a guy, but he wound up catching me.”
Miles’ pick-six on Bowie State’s next possession secured an insurmountable advantage for J.C. Smith, which has won six straight dating to the 2012 campaign. The two teams combined for 1,041 yards on offense, including Bowie State’s sizzling 390 yards after intermission, but the Golden Bulls proved more resourceful when required.
“I knew it was going to be something different in the second half,” J.C. Smith coach Steve Aycock said. “The defense looked winded today and it was not what we normally do, but I’ve got to take my hat off to the offense for scoring when we needed to and the defense doing what it had to do.”
J.C. Smith’s offense was equally proficient with 519 yards, including a career-high 425 passing yards by Wallace, who sat out last week’s opener. He connected on 28-of-37 passes with four touchdowns, including a 51-yard strike to Fred Scott (10 catches, 131 yards) and an 8-yarder to Concord High grad Jimmy Drye over the final three minutes.
“We came out slow in the second half, but fast in the first half,” Wallace said. “We’ve got to learn how to finish. Once we learn how to finish, we’ll have a complete team.”
Bowie State scored 21 straight points in the second half, with Jared Johnston’s (27-of-43, 394 yards) 26-yard strike to Nyme Manns with 11:44 left cutting the deficit to 30-28. The Bulldogs climbed into contention behind its rushing attack, sparked by a pair of Keith Brown scoring runs in the third quarter pulling the Bulldogs to within 30-21. The Golden Bulls, meanwhile, struggled to generate offense after shredding Bowie State for 380 yards in the first half.
J.C. Smith dominated early in seizing a 30-7 lead at recess. Wallace hit 21-of-25 passes for 286 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the first half and tailback LeAnder Barney (14 carries, 82 yards) rushed for 76 yards and a couple of scores on eight carries.
The Golden Bulls opened the game with a six-play, 66-yard drive capped by Barney’s 8-yard run, and after Bowie State matched it with Johnston’s 3-yard score to tie the game at 7. J.C. Smith went ahead for good on Erik Amaya’s 25-yard field goal with 4:10 in the first.
Wallace, who threw for 104 yards in the first quarter, tossed his first touchdown pass of the season, a 9-yard strike to Scott with 10:59 in the second for a 17-7 Golden Bulls lead.
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