Kentucky State’s offense often carries the Thorobreds. But on Saturday, it was the Thorobred defense that was a force.
Sophomore defensive back Eric Rawls intercepted his third pass of the game with 18 seconds left in the fourth quarter to secure a 17-11 KSU Homecoming victory over Fort Valley State Saturday afternoon at Alumni Stadium.
With the win, Kentucky State improved to 4-2 on the season and 2-1 in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Fort Valley (2-4, 2-2 SIAC) took over at its own 12-yard line trailing by six points with only 27 seconds remaining. Senior quarterback Eugene Smith threw a deep pass on the Wildcats’ first play, but it was Rawls who came away with it.
“I just knew they had to take a shot,” said Rawls, who is 6-3, 195 pounds from Pompano Beach, Fla. “I knew No. 1 (De’ Angelo Smith) was their guy. I just played him and tried to overlap him too. The ball just came to me.”
The interception capped off a game that was controlled by the two defenses throughout the game.
Both teams were held under 200 yards on offense and limited to only one third-down conversion each. The defenses combined for six sacks, five interceptions and 11 quarterback hurries.
“Our offense has been carrying us a lot this season,” KSU head coach Josh Dean said. “We knew that eventually our defense would match up. We have a lot of talent over there. I couldn’t be more proud of our guys.”
Rawls also had a 42-yard interception return which gave KSU a 14-2 advantage at halftime.
Rawls nearly had a fourth interception, but it was dropped in the third quarter. He also had a blocked punt return for a touchdown, but it was nullified because of a facemask call.
“The thing about Eric Rawls, we knew he was such a special talent since my first year here,” Dean said. “He’s just a sophomore and has unlimited potential. He’s 6-3, long and can run fast. The thing with this defense is they’ve never really been in a position to believe in themselves — to really stick together — and know they can.”
KSU junior linebacker Terry Horton had a game high 12 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Horton recorded five solo and seven assisted tackles as well as 2.0 tackles for a loss of 17 yards.
The Wildcats came away with two safeties, including a sack by LeRon Furr and a bad long snap, which Western Hills grad and junior kicker Cam Lee tossed out of the end zone.
SIAC leading rusher Jacquise Lockett was shut down by FVSU, the conference’s No. 1 rush defense. The junior finished with 78 rushing yards.
KSU junior quarterback Adam Robinson connected with junior receiver Clayton Patton Jr. for the only offensive touchdown in the game. Patton outran the FVSU defense for a 62-yard touchdown with 13:49 left in the first quarter. Cade Berryman made the extra-point kick.
Robinson completed 6-of-17 passes for one touchdown. He was also picked off twice by senior defensive back Thomas Wolfe III, who returned one pick for 35 yards. Wolfe’s interception pulled the Wildcats within three with a score of 14-11 with 7:20 left in the third quarter.
Lee kicked a 30-yard field goal with 14:37 remaining in the game, forcing FVSU to have to score a touchdown.
“When you look at the game, there was nothing Fort Valley did to hurt us, we hurt ourselves,” said Dean, who came to KSU in 2012 after working as the defensive assistant coach at FVSU. “We had a great game plan, we knew what they were going to come with and we adjusted to it. The only problem was we didn’t execute on offense at times. It was an ugly win, but it was a win.”
The Thorobreds travel to Miles College for their second conference matchup in a row 5 p.m. Saturday.
To see a photo gallery from this game, click here.