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Running backs De'Rell Freeman and Donte Edwards each ran for more than 100 yards, Daniel Smith threw for two touchdowns and the defense registered seven sacks as Miles pulled away in the fourth quarter to earn a 38-17 win over Fort Valley State Saturday night at Wildcats Stadium.
The win was the first for the Golden Bears in a season opener since beating the Wildcats to open the 2016 campaign. With the game tied at 17 after three quarters, Edwards scored his first career touchdown on a 1-yard run with 11:32 remaining to give Miles the lead for good. He bookended his bruising, second-effort jaunt with a 14-yard scamper with 1:53 remaining that capped a 21-point quarter and sent the FVSU fans to the exits.
Edwards had 13 carries for 111 yards and Freeman added 19 carries for 114 yards. They are the first Miles teammates to rush for more than 100 yards each in the same game since Jamarcus Nance (129 yards) and David Whipple (101) accomplished the feat in a win over Lane in 2015. Equally as impressive was the style that it was done as the duo repeatedly gutted the Wildcats between the tackles. Only one of the runs resulted in negative yards and by the final drive, the pair was getting yards in big chunks.
It was the special teams, though, that got Miles on the board to open the season. After forcing FVSU to punt on its first drive, a bad snap enabled the rush to get upfield and Jairius Shade was able to get the block. Wade Streeter scooped the loose ball and returned it three yards for the early 7-0 advantage.
FVSU would open a 10-7 lead in the second quarter but Jackson Spradlin would tie the contest with a 48-yard field goal early in the second quarter. Miles would go into the half with a 17-10 lead thanks to a 15-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Dominique McNealey, an over-the-shoulder grab to the back corner fo the end zone with 2:26 left before halftime.
Defensively, Miles was solid early but spectacular as the game wore on. Defensive coordinator Rashad Watson was bringing pressure from all angles, resulting in seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss. MarQuel Shelton was credited with two sacks, and Austin Stephens and Kadarius Roberts each had 1 1/2 sacks as six different players got to FVSU quarterback Slade Jarman. The surge up front also stymied the running game for the Wildcats, who had just 12 yards rushing - 11 coming on a fourth-quarter run by Jamari Clark.
Still, a 5-yard touchdown pass from Jarman to QA Walker with 22 seconds left in the third quarter tied the game at 17. But while the Wildcats were running out of steam on a sweltering night, the Golden Bears continued to roll.
Smith opened the game-winning drive with a 23-yard completion to Leonard Tyree - his first catch of the game and the longest toss by Smith on the night - on the last play of the third quarter. A key 14-yard completion to Antonio Lee gave the Golden Bears a first-and-goal situation and three plays later, Edwards was in the end zone for a 24-17 lead.
On the ensuing drive, Jarman threw his only interception as Mitchell Smiley picked him off and gave Miles the ball at the FVSU 35. That possession ended in an 8-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Tyree with less than six minutes to go for a two-touchdown advantage. The Wildcats would move to the Miles 21 on their next drive before turning it over on downs. Six plays later, Edwards was in the end zone again and Miles was ready to celebrate a win.
The Golden Bears are back in action on Saturday when they open the home portion of their schedule against Morehouse in the Prince Hall Americanism Football Classic. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.