Visiting Winston-Salem State couldn’t hold a 10-point second-half lead as N.C. Central won 20-13 on Saturday night in front of more than 10,000 at sold-out O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium.
The two programs hadn’t played since 2010 but the wait was worth it as the Division II Rams gave the Eagles all they could handle.
The Rams (0-2) led 6-3 at halftime after two field goals from Jabbani Esparza and then took a 13-3 lead when quarterback Cameron Lewis hit wide receiver Antjuan Collins with a 19-yard touchdown pass to make it 13-6 in the third quarter after Esparza made the point-after attempt.
The Eagles (2-1) rallied in the fourth quarter with two short touchdown runs from Latrell Collier to take the lead with 1:41 left to play.
Lewis and the Rams, however, could not move the ball on their final possession. Lewis, a transfer from East Tennessee State, made his first career start for the Rams and played the entire game.
Lewis was 18 of 31 for 190 yards and one touchdown but was sacked twice. He also led the Rams in rushing with 16 carries and 52 yards.
The Rams will play their first home game and their opener in CIAA play on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. against Elizabeth City State.
The Eagles will head to Greensboro to take on N.C. A&T on Saturday at 6 p.m. in a nonconference game. The Aggies are now members of the Big South Conference.
Marring the excitement level of the two programs meeting for the first time in 11 years was at about 9 p.m. on Saturday night a shooting took place in one of the nearby parking lots close to the stadium, according to WRAL.com.
N.C. Central confirmed that the shooting did not involve any students. WRAL.com reported that two people died in the shooting that took place at the Latharn Parking Deck on East Lawson Street.
The identities of the two people that died were not available on Saturday night, according to WRAL.com.
Because of the crime scene fans, were locked down in the stadium for 45 minutes after the game ended around 10 p.m., according to WRAL.com. The website also reported that those fans who had parked in that lot couldn’t get to their cars until 11:30 p.m. or so.
Elwood Robinson, the chancellor at WSSU who was at the game, credited N.C. Central’s administrators with handling what happened with grace.
In a Facebook post Robinson said: “The entire Rams family stands with you as you deal with the tragedy that occurred during the game. We support your loud voice in reiterating that this is NOT a reflection of the NCCU campus or the NCCU experience.”
N.C. Central officials praised the quick reactions of the police department in a statement about the shootings.
“Thanks to the well-trained, quick acting NCCU police department, no members of the NCCU community or its’ guests were impacted by this tragedy,” the school said in a statement on Saturday night.
Another statement from the university on Sunday reiterated that the two people who died were not part of the N.C. Central community.
“NCCU was touched by a tragic occurrence last night that involved individuals who are not part of the university’s community,” the statement said. “The NCCU Police and Public Safety Department precisely executed the incident plan that is indicative of their training and standards. Students, and all guests who were on campus, swiftly complied when a lockdown was issued in and around O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium.... Durham Police Department continues to lead this active and ongoing investigation.”
WSSU 0 6 7 0—13
N.C. Central 3 0 3 14—20
N—A. Olivo 30 field goal
W—J. Esparza 22 field goal
W—J. Esparza 37 field goal
W—A. Collins 19 pass from C. Lewis (Esparza kick)
N—A. Olivo 43 field goal
N—L. Collier 1 run (Olivo kick)
N—L. Collier 2 run (Olivo kick)