Courtesy of Savannah State Athletics:
SAVANNAH, Ga. – A new era has dawned over Savannah State football—one that reflects the program’s glory days.
With a dominating performance in their final Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) game of the season, the 2019 Savannah State football team earned the programs first winning season since 1998, and the first undefeated conference run since 1989.
The Tigers improved to 5-0 in the SIAC with a 53-24 win over Fort Valley State in Theodore A. Wright Stadium on Saturday. SSU is 6-3 heading into their final game of the season next Saturday against Edward Waters. Kick-off in Jacksonville, Fla. is set for 3 p.m.
Savannah State was picked in the preseason SIAC poll to finish last. First year head coach Shawn Quinnused that as motivation this season, reminding his players of the poll at every single game.
“In the SIAC media days, they wouldn’t give us a table,” Quinn said after the game. “Picked last, we were the forgotten season and the forgotten team going into this division. So, I give all the credit to those kids and the people who supported us. It’s big. We’re undefeated. I can’t thank our guys enough and our fans. I am super excited.”
The 1989 Tigers lost one game in the season and won all of their conference matches, but in similar fashion to the 2019 Tigers, they were not eligible for post-season play. Savannah State football will be cleared to battle for the SIAC Championship and the NCAA Division II Playoffs in the 2020 season.
The 1989 (7-1) and 1988 (7-3) Tigers were coached by the legendary William “Bill” Davis, Savannah State’s most successful head coach. That team also fielded three-time All-SIAC, three-time Super Bowl Champion, and NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Shannon Sharpe.
Saturday night’s contest was also one of the longest games the Tigers have played this season, running 3 hours and 25 minutes. The first quarter alone was nearly an hour long.
In that quarter, however, Savannah State put the hammer down early scoring 27 points over that 57-minute quarter.
After winning the coin toss, Savannah State deferred and kicked off to the Wildcats. On Fort Valley State’s third play of the game’s opening drive, Salik McRae recovered a fumble to give the Tigers the ball a mere 13 seconds into the game.
Starting quarterback D’Vonn Gibbons rushed for a 14-yard touchdown on the first play of the Tigers first drive setting the tone for the entire game to come.
With 10:48 to play in the quarter, on the Tigers third possession, Gibbons hit senior Major Bellamy Jr. with a 40-yard touchdown pass, ending a 3-play, 36-yard drive in the end zone.
Fort Valley struggled to respond on the ensuing possession. On second down, Cameron Brown recovered the second fumble of the night for the Tigers, setting the SSU offense up on the Fort Valley 27.
On the Tigers’ second down, Gibbons connected with Einaj Carter on a 29-yard touchdown pass and senior Giovanni Lugo tacked on the extra point to lift the Tigers to a 21-0 lead with 8:43 to play.
With 3:01 to play in the long first quarter, D’Angelo Durham broke free and rushed for a season-high 67-yard touchdown dash, lifting the Tigers to a commanding 27-0 lead.
Durham racked up 148 net rushing yards on the night with two touchdowns. Gibbons wasn’t far behind in the run game, recording 145 net yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns of his own.
Gibbons completed 5 of 8 pass attempts on the night as well and four passing touchdowns, hitting Bellamy, Carter, Adunte Devereux and Jontae Baker with scoring passes.
Desmond Young led an impressive Savannah State defense with 8 tackles on the night, including 1 sack and 1 tackle for a loss. Walter Yates had 5 tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and one interception. Savannah State racked up 450 total offense yards on the night with 375 of them coming from the aggressive option ground game, and 75 in the air.
HFort Valley State put up a field goal in the second quarter, a touchdown in the third and two more touchdowns late in the game to cut SSU’s massive lead to 29 points. Demontay Jones completed 20 of 37 passes for 292 yards and 3 touchdowns, leading the Wildcats on offense.