FLORENCE, Ala. — Winston-Salem State coach Connell Maynor watched his unbeaten team give up a touchdown on the opening kickoff but didn’t get worried.
He’d seen it all before, a couple of times. This time the Rams couldn’t overcome Valdosta State’s fast start Saturday and fell 35-7 in the Division II national championship game, coming up short in their bid to become the first historically black school to win the crown and complete a perfect season.
Matt Pierce’s 96-yard scoring return to open the game came a year after Wayne State started the same way — only to lose to Pittsburg State.
“I was, ‘OK, history does repeat itself. They ran the opening kickoff back and we’re going to win the game,”’ Maynor said. “I’m never going to think negative.
“I never thought we were going to lose the football game.”
The 17th-ranked Blazers (12-2) led 21-0 by halftime and became the lowest-ranked team to win the title. It was their 10th straight victory and first national title since 2007, coach David Dean’s debut season.
They needed 12 seconds to score and 5 minutes to build a 14-0 lead against a team that hadn’t trailed by more than a touchdown all season.
“They hadn’t been in that situation before and I didn’t know if they knew how to react to that, because they’d been blowing everybody out week after week,” Dean said of the Rams.