West Virginia State's football team didn't get the homecoming result it wanted in its first home game under the lights and on its new artificial playing surface.
The Yellow Jackets struggled offensively as they fell to UNC Pembroke 14-13 on Saturday night at Lakin-Ray Field in the first-ever night game at Dickerson Stadium.
"We didn't play well in the first half, had a turnover in the red zone, couldn't get off the field on third down," WVSU coach John Pennington said. "We regrouped at halftime and we came out with great energy. We flipped the momentum in the fourth quarter and had an opportunity to win."
WVSU (3-4, 3-3 Mountain East Conference) allowed 14 points in the first half and nothing else, but the offense struggled to match UNC Pembroke's scoring totals as it turned the ball over three times (two fumbles, one interception). WVSU outgained Pembroke (4-3, 4-2 MEC) 412-283.
West Virginia State quarterback Donovan Riddick completed 18 of his 33 pass attempts for 227 yards and a touchdown with an interception. He also rushed for 56 yards.
UNCP quarterback Josh Jones was 26 for 46 passing for 227 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He was sacked four times, two coming at the hands of Jalen Jones.
WVSU receiver Tyrone Lyte was the game's leading receiver as he pulled in four passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. Barry Hill caught five passes for 66 yards.
Former Marshall special teams tool Joseph Early was key to UNC Pembroke's rushing attack as he rushed 18 times for 69 yards.
UNCP scored the first touchdown of the game with four minutes remaining in the first quarter as tight end Faheem Diaab caught Jones' 11-yard pass for a score.
About a full quarter of play later -- in the second quarter -- UNCP got its second touchdown as Jones connected with receiver Tyshawn Carter for a 14-yard touchdown pass to make the score 14-0.
WVSU did not go scoreless in the first half as kick Martin Ahlstroem booted a 25-yard field goal to make the score 14-3 in favor of the Braves.
Both offenses struggled to start the second half and the third quarter went scoreless. Early in the fourth quarter, WVSU was up against a 3rd-and-13 but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on UNCP propelled WVSU to a first down deep in the Braves territory. On the next play after the penalty, Riddick connected with Lyte for a 25-yard touchdown.
If WVSU ran a successful 2-point conversion after the touchdown, the score would have been 14-11, and a WVSU field goal would have tied the game. Instead, the Yellow Jackets elected to kick the extra point, making the score 14-10.
About six minutes later, Ahlstroem kicked a 29-yard field goal to make it a one-point game.
On UNCP's next drive, WVSU's Christian Thompson intercepted Jones' pass with about two minutes remaining in the game and the Yellow Jackets had the ball at their own 48-yard line.
The Yellow Jackets moved up to the UNCP 30-yard line and Pennington decided to go for it on 4th-and-inches, rather than have Ahlstroem attempt a field goal of about 47 yards. Dant'e Jones got the ball and failed to gain a yard. UNCP took over on downs and the game went final a 14-13 in favor of the Braves.
"Fourth-and-inches we thought we could get a first down, snap it to our guy, get an inch and we could pretty much run the clock out and kick a last-second field goal," Pennington said. "We didn't want to give it back to them with a whole minute left."