Make room for Miles at the top of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

The Golden Bears stunned Albany State for a 20-17 victory on Patton Chambers’ 29-yard field goal with nine seconds left for a 20-17 victory at Clark Atlanta’s Panther Stadium. Miles (7-4) earned its first SIAC championship and knocked Albany State (8-3) out of contention for its seventh consecutive bid to the NCAA Division II playoffs.

It’s the first time since 2000 that either Albany State or Tuskegee didn’t win the SIAC. With only four winning seasons since 1963 and a 3-8 record in 2010, Miles seemed like an unlikely candidate to break through.

But first-year coach Reginald Ruffin led Miles to the West division championship and won the league’s first championship game. “When I interviewed for the job, we didn’t talk about just competing,” Ruffin said. “We talked about winning, and winning right now.”

Albany State won four consecutive games to win the East division and was looking for its 15th SIAC title. But the Golden Rams had two turnovers when driving for scores and missed a go-ahead field-goal try before Miles’ winning drive

Albany State lost to Miles for the first time since 2002.

“If you would have asked me at the beginning of the year if we could make it to this point, I don’t know if I would have said yes,” coach Mike White said. “I thought we could win one [more] game, but to have an opportunity to win the championship, I will take that.” Albany State’s Brandon Hamilton missed a 38-yard field-goal attempt with 3:20 remaining. During Miles’ final drive, quarterback David Thomas passed for 26 yards to Vondragu Hudson on third-and-12 and scrambled 12 yards to the Albany State 12.

Chambers’ kick knuckled low and just cleared the crossbar. “I was hoping we got closer because I don’t like taking those 40-yard kicks under pressure,” Chambers said. “After David made that run, I knew that was destiny.”

Albany State’s path to the playoffs opened when North Alabama completed its 30-23 victory over North Alabama earlier Saturday. With Albany State’s loss, Morehouse has an outside shot to be selected for a playoffs spot when they are announced Sunday.

“I was definitely looking forward to the playoffs but unfortunately it didn’t happen,” said Albany State quarterback Stanley Jennings, the former Marietta High standout. “I wish it would have because we have a strong team and I think we could have made a run.”

Miles stymied the SIAC’s No. 2 passing offense. Jennings, the league’s two-time offensive player of the year, completed 11 of 23 passes for 126 yards with an interception.

Jennings’ 21-yard touchdown pass to Jessie Atkins staked Albany State to a 9-7 lead late in the first half. Miles answered in the third quarter with Thomas’ 5-yard touchdown run for a 14-9 advantage and added a field goal late in the period.

Albany State quickly answered with Nathan Hoyte’s 2-yard touchdown run, which was set up by Jennings’ 38-yard pass to Hoyte. Hoyte added a two-point conversion run to tie the score at 17-17.

Albany State faced a fourth-and-4 when Hamilton missed the 38-yard field-goal attempt. Jennings said he wanted to go for the first down, but White said that wasn’t an option after Hoyte loss 2 yards on third down.

Albany State blew a good chance to score first. After Albany State forced a three-and-out, four consecutive runs by Hoyte set up a second down at the Miles 4-yard line. But a third-down penalty pushed Albany State back to the 9, and Jennings threw an interception into double coverage in the end zone while scrambling.

“I was trying to throw it to the back of the end zone, but my foot got caught in the turf,” Jennings said.

The Golden Bears took over at their 20 and marched on a 12-play touchdown drive. Thomas converted a fourth-and-4 run, carrying defenders for the final yard, and on the next play passed to Antonio Pitts for a 29-yard touchdown.

Albany State Game MVP: Nathan Hoyte
Miles Game MVP: David Thomas
Outstanding Coach: Reginald Ruffin, Miles College

Courtesy of Michael Cunningham, Atlanta Journal-Constitution