By John Bombatch
INDIANAPOLIS — A late dose of Central State exuberance led to Kentucky State’s winning touchdown, Saturday at the XXXII Circle City Classic at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Kentucky State took advantage of an unsportsmanlike penalty to rally to a 21-17 win over Central State in front of 22,523 fans.
A first half chock full of turnovers and special teams scores earned the Central State Marauders a 17-14 halftime advantage, which carried over through a scoreless third quarter. But Kentucky State got deep into Marauder territory late in the fourth quarter, then took advantage of a CSU unsportsmanlike penalty which occurred on the Thorobreds’ game-tying field goal.
A Marauders defender had jumped the KSU line in an attempt to block the kick, which drew the penalty.
KSU took the points off the board and accepted the penalty, which put the ball on the Marauders 8-yard line. A Thorobreds false start penalty later, Alex Springs found Corey Slaughter for a 13-yard go-ahead scoring strike. Turner Warren’s extra-point try sailed through the uprights and the Thorobreds regained the lead for good, 21-17.
“You never want to take points off the board unless you get a first down,” Kentucky State coach Josh Dean. “We thought we were in a position where we had (Central State) on their heels a little bit. … It’s always sweet to win, but it’s really sweet to win a conference game. Our Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference is a tough one, with great defenses that beat you up. So this was a big win for us.”
The Thorobreds (1-3, 1-0 SIAC West) began a wacky first half of special teams and defensive scores when Kolby Griffin swooped in and recovered a fumbled punt snap and raced 15 yards into the end zone for the game’s first score. Turner Warren booted the extra point and the ‘Breds had a 7-0 lead.
Central State’s Jordan Howard then got into the act when he returned a KSU punt 49 yards for a score. John Adams tied things up with his extra point.
Things were still in the first quarter when KSU’s Nathaniel Robinson returned a blocked punt 41 yards for a Thorobreds score. Another Warren kick made it 14-7 in KSU’s favor.
Adams kicked a 27-yard field goal early into the second quarter to pull the Marauders to within four points, trailing 14-10. Then Clim Robbins snared a Alex Springs pass at the 47-yard line and raced in for Central State’s go-ahead score with 11:44 left in the first half. Another Adams boot put the Marauders out in front 17-14.
CSU led in total yards rushing and passing. Marquis Wells completed 9 of 21 passes for 114 yards, and Marauder backs Jihad Rasheed, Wells, Deandre Grant, Moses Vines, Byron Moore and Isaiah Grooms combined to gain 129 yards on 56 carries. They also led in penalties with 12 for 113 yards.
“It’s obviously a tough loss. I liked the effort from my kids, but we had too many touchdowns off our special teams — we had one off a bad snap and one off a protection issue — and that cost us the game. We can’t do that. We’ve gotta get that coached up better, and all that starts with me,” Central State second-year coach Cedric Pearl said.
The game may have been in Indianapolis, but Central State (2-2, 0-1 SIAC West) was listed as the home team for Saturday’s Classic. The Marauders get to play their first real home game of the season Saturday when they’ll face Kentucky Wesleyan. That game is set for 1 p.m. at McPherson Stadium.
WATCH ME, WATCH ME!: Entertainer Yazz The Greatest provided a lengthy halftime show, then rapper Silentó performed his hit “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” and other songs as part of a post-game concert.
BEST BAND: Central State’s Marching Marauders won the Circle City Classic battle of the bands, and the $5,000 check that went to the victors. They also performed as part of the post-game concert.
MORE PHOTOS ONLINE: Photos from the Circle City Classic, including the Marching Marauders marching band, the CSU cheerleaders, CSU’s Royal Court, entertainer Yazz the Greatest, and more game shots from the Circle City Classic can be found online at xeniagazette.com.