By Mark F. Gray, Special to the AFRO

There are moments that define an entire season and players are defined in it. On the road to a championship there are often games that are won that shouldn’t be that add to the legend of the player who leads the victory and to the lamentation of the team who loses.

Bowie State quarterback Amir Hall wasn’t the best offensive player in Division II at Bulldog Stadium as Winston Salem State visited for a late afternoon twilight thriller in Prince George’s County. In fact, a compelling argument could be made that based on the eye test, Rams running back Kerrion Moore was the best offensive player on the field Sept. 29 in Bowie.

Bowie State coach Damon Wilson shows relief after quarterback Amir Hall led the Bulldogs to a 20-17 win in their home opener at Bulldogs Stadium in Bowie, Maryland. (Photo by Mark Gray)

However, when the game’s defining moments were on the line Moore and Winston Salem State didn’t convert a critical third down that would’ve given them a chance to seal the victory. Leaving the door cracked allowed Hall and Bowie State to storm through with a clutch fourth quarter drive that helped the Bulldogs escape with a 20-17 win in their home opener at Bulldog Stadium.

The win improved Bowie State’s record to 4-1 (2-0 CIAA) and they remain undefeated versus Division II opponents this season. Winston Salem State fell to 1-3 (0-2 CIAA)

“That just showed who we are and what we are made of as a team,” Hall told the AFRO after a jubilant sideline celebration. “We’ve got [a] team full of fighters on this team. We never gave up and I’m just so blessed to play with a bunch of brothers who don’t quit and fight like this.”

Hall admitted that he was “too jacked up” to open the game and was erratic throughout most of it. His statistics were pedestrian by reigning HBCU National Player of the Year standards. He finished 28 of 52 passing for 282 yards and threw two interceptions but still led the team with 59 yards rushing. Many of his passes were either behind or over his intended receiver’s head for the first three and a half quarters. Moore, however, was a consistent leading rusher with 85 yards on 22 carries and scored the game’s first touchdown.

Under Coach Kienus Boulware the Rams have been one of the few teams to contain Hall and the Bulldogs prolific offense over the last three years. Using a mix of zone coverages and timely blitzes WSSU was able to disrupt the timing of Bowie State’s pass offense by making Hall uncomfortable. The Rams focused on making the Bulldogs travel the entire field to score without the big plays that make them the greatest show on D-II turf. It was a successful formula that worked to perfection in 2016 CIAA Championship Game and during last year’s matchup on Tobacco Road.

“That’s why I went over there to tell those guys I’ve got nothing but mad respect for them,” Hall said. “We’ve been through great battles in the CIAA Championship [games] and during the regular season too. It’s never easy when we go up against them.”

Bowie State wouldn’t have needed Hall’s fourth quarter heroics if they had been more efficient in the red zone. Twice in the first half they were stifled inside the five-yard line forcing them to settle for field goals. However, it was his 32-yard connection to senior wide receiver Lasana Sesay with 1:20 left in the fourth quarter that capped a seven play 71-yard drive sealing WSSU’s fate.

Howard and Morgan were both off last weekend.

Next: Bowie at Chowan (Oct. 6)

Next: Howard at N.C. Central (Oct. 6)

Next: Morgan at S.C. State (Oct. 6) Homecoming