Johnny Willis scored on a 91-yard punt return late in the fourth quarter to lift Benedict College to a 20-16 win over Kentucky State in the final game of 2017 for the Tigers.
The victory ends the season for the Tigers at 7-2. Combined with Albany State's 34-9 victory over Fort Valley State on Saturday, Benedict and Fort Valley State tied for first place in the SIAC East with 5-1 conference records. Fort Valley State earned the bid to next week's SIAC Championship game because they owned the tierbreaker based on its 31-28 double overtime victory over the Tigers six weeks ago.
Benedict's only other loss came in week two on the road at Limestone, also in overtime. The Tigers wrapped up the season undefeated in five home games this season. The .778 winning percentage is the best since the Tigers resumed football play in 1995, and just the second season with seven or more wins in the modern era.
"Just proud of the guys of the way they hung in there," said Benedict head football coach Mike White.
"Been a tough season, losing those two overtime games. But bouncing back and winning five straight is pretty huge, sends us into the offseason pretty good."
Two years ago, Benedict was winless when Mike White played a host of freshmen in his first season. Now, after a seven-win season, White says his team needs to be ready to take the next step.
"We gotta go forward, gotta go forward," White said.
"That means a little bit of pressure will be on us next year to see if we can bounce back and keep the momentum that we have going.'
Kentucky State, which played in the SIAC Championship game last year as the west division champion, fell to 3-7 overall and 2-4 in the SIAC.