Benedict delivers unusual rally to survive a scare from Miles

Benedict experienced a number of undesirable firsts this season when it visited Miles for a showdown on Saturday. 

The Tigers hadn’t allowed any opponent more than one score. They hadn’t yielded more than 193 yards of total offense in a contest. They also hadn’t trailed at any point through five games. 

Although all those streaks ended, Benedict did not suffer its first loss. The Tigers capped a long drive with a late touchdown and prevailed, 27-24, to remain undefeated.

Undefeated Benedict beat Miles 27-24 in a hard-fought game on Saturday, Oct. 7. (Source: Courtesy of Benedict College Athletics/Nate Salley)

“That was a program-defining win for us,” Benedict head coach Chennis Berry said afterward. “We needed to go through some adversity. That’s the sign of a championship football team. I think this brought our football team together, to come on the road in hostile territory and come away with the victory.”

Miles (4-2 overall, 3-1 in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) scored more points (24) than Benedict’s previous opponents combined (13). The Tigers entered as the Division II leader in total defense and scoring defense, having pitched two shutouts while holding two opponents to field goals and limiting another foe to a lone touchdown. 

But Miles entered with the nation’s 22nd-best offense (436.6 yards per game) and finally heated up Saturday. The Golden Bears scored touchdowns on three consecutive possessions to erase a 21-3 halftime deficit. Quarterback Kamren Ivory threw two scoring passes and then ran in for another score as Miles took a 24-21 lead with around eight minutes left in the game. 

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Benedict helped give away its lead with interceptions on back-to-back possessions after intermission, the first interceptions thrown by quarterback Aeneas Dennis all season. Miles turned both into touchdowns and scored again after Benedict failed to convert on fourth-and-1 at Miles’ 44-yard line.

Dennis and the offense trotted back out with 7:44 left, behind on the scoreboard and needing a touchdown to maintain their perfect record. “This is a game where each of us had to depend on each other – offense, defense, and special teams,” Berry said. “When Miles took the lead, our offense didn’t blink.”

Dennis proceeded to engineer a 12-play, 87-yard drive. He completed 6 of 8 passes for 76 yards on the march, which ended on halfback Noah Zaire Scotland’s 1-yard run with 2:25 left in the game. Overall, Dennis completed 21 of 37 passes for 286 yards and a touchdown. Wideout Nick Sowell finished with nine receptions for a career-high 174 yards, including a 73-yard score; he had three catches for 40 yards during the game-winning drive.

“(Sowell) had an amazing day,” Berry said. “He had a great week of practice, and he understands that if you put in the work during the week, you get what you deserve on game day. He was amazing. I’m just so proud of him.”

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Scotland scored three touchdowns on the day. Benedict (6-0, 4-0) secured the victory when Aaron Miller sacked Ivory on fourth-and-1. The Tigers gave up a season-high 362 yards, but they also forced five turnovers.

“Our defense has been playing well all year,” Berry said. “Kudos to them and the staff. They’ve been doing an amazing job. They may have bent a little bit, but they didn’t break, and they found a way to win a football game.”

Winning games has become the norm since Berry arrived in 2020, inheriting a program that was 1-8 the year before. The Tigers, ranked 11th in the AFCA Coaches Division II poll, haven’t lost a regular-season game since Oct. 23, 2021. Their only blemish since then is a 23-6 defeat in the NCAA playoffs last year. 

Most games have been lopsided affairs, with only Miles this year and Albany State last year (24-20) coming within one score of the Tigers. The road ahead could prove tougher for Benedict, starting Thursday night with a primetime game against Fort Valley State (5-1, 5-0) on ESPN2.

“We needed a game like this to spark us for the rest of the season,” Berry said. “I’m so very proud of our team, our coaches, our players, our support staff, the people from Tiger nation who came from all over the country to come see us play, and they got the chance to witness a really good football team. I’m so very proud to be the head football coach here.”

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