WT Buffs dream season comes to an end

The West Texas A&M football team gave a valiant effort, but came up short in a 41-18 loss in the NCAA Division II Semifinal Saturday evening at No. 2 Winston-Salem State. With the loss, the Buffaloesâ?? magical season came to an end with a 12-3 record, while WSSU improves to 14-0 and advances to the National Championship game next weekend in Florence, Ala.

â??I give a lot of credit to Winston-Salem State,â?? head coach Don Carthel said. â??They were a really good football team. The Buffaloes played hard, but we made some mistakes and penalties in the first half that really cost us. I take my hat off to our guys they had a great season it was a great bunch to coach. Winston-Salem was here last year and lost in the semifinals. We have a lot of guys coming back next year and we now have experienced this and can build on it.â??

WT was led by senior running back Khiry Robinson who tallied 137 yards on the ground on 20 carries and one score as he surpassed Eugene â??Mercuryâ?? Morris for the most rushing yards in a season with 1,621. Morris had 1,571 yards in 1968.

Junior quarterback Dustin Vaughan went 21 of 35 with two interceptions and one score for 169 yards, while junior wide receiver Torrence Allen had a team-high 74 yards receiving on six carries. Senior defensive lineman Tyrell Higgins led the team with nine tackles and two tackles for loss. He and junior Shane Pennix combined for the lone sack of the game as WT entered ranked first nationally in sacks at over four per game.

Redshirt freshman Jarrian Rhone took the kickoff 74-yards to the WSSU 16. On the first play from scrimmage, junior quarterback Dustin Vaughan scrambled outside and found junior wide receiver Trevor Hammargren for a 16-yard touchdown pass just 21 seconds into the contest. It was the longest kickoff return of Rhoneâ??s career and the longest of the season for the Buffs.

A big stop on third down by junior linebacker Taylor McCuller, who stuffed Maurice Lewis in the backfield on 3rd and less than a yard, as it forced WSSU to punt on its opening possession as the Rams drove to the WT 40.

After a facemask penalty, WSSU quarterback Kameron Smith made a couple of nice moves on a scramble and Bryce Sherman run up the middle from 32 yards out for the score with 4:23 remaining, but Landon Thayer missed the extra point.

After the score, senior Aarrhon Flores returned the kick for a score, but an illegal block in the back was called nullifying the score. A number of holding penalties continued to hinder the drive as WT got down to the WSSU 30, but back-to-back holding penalties put the Buffs in a 3rd and 14 at the Ram 27. Junior kicker Sergio Castillo, Jr., missed the 41-yard field goal, snapping a streak of 16-straight field goals.

On fourth and four from the Ramsâ?? 41, WSSU went for the fake punt and came up short turning the ball over to the Buffs in Winston-Salem State territory. On the first play, Vaughanâ??s pass was picked off by Justin Wilkerson, a lineman, who got his hands up for the interception.

After a scramble for a first down on 4th and one by Smith, Lewis ran in from 12-yards out for a 13-7 lead for the Rams with 8:40 remaining in the first half, converting on the WT miscue. It was the first time WT had been down since the third quarter of the Ashland game on Nov. 24.

Two big passes over the top by Smith put the Rams in good possession after a Buff punt. Two tackles for loss on stopped running plays forced the Rams into a third and long, but Smith found Jahuann Butler who made it 4th and four from the 21. On an all-out blitz by WT, Smith hung in there and found Jameze Massey over the middle for a 21-yard score and a 20-7 lead.

Vaughan, on third and long, went for a long pass and it was picked off deep in Ram territory by Larry Hearne with 1:14 remaining in the second quarter. It was Vaughanâ??s second interception of the half.

WT stopped the Rams on fourth and long on the opening series and then took the ball down the field and Castillo kicked a 29 field goal for a 20-10 score with 6:26 remaining in the third quarter.

WSSU came right back with some big plays as Lewis scored from nine yards out for a 27-10 score with 2:15 remaining in the third. It was Lewisâ?? second score of the game. The Rams swelled the lead to 34-10 early in the fourth, but the Buffs continued to fight and Robinson scored from 13-yards out. Redshirt freshman Geremy Alridge caught a pass from Vaughan for the two-point conversion and a 34-18 score.