Kameron Smith might have had a seat on stage with the Harlon Hill Trophy finalists at Thursday’s NCAA Division II football press conference, if his team hadn’t dominated the competition so much this season.
His undefeated Winston-Salem State team sports a 24.7-point average margin of victory through 15 games.
That has kept Smith, the Rams’ standout quarterback, mostly sidelined late in games. He’s played a full four quarters four times this season.
Maybe he’d prefer to continue that trend Saturday in the national championship game, but he doesn’t really expect to against Valdosta State at Braly Stadium.
“I’m sure this will be a four-quarter game,” Smith said. “They’ve got a good team, and they can score, too.
“Our starters haven’t had to play a full game too many times this season. But we’re conditioned well, and we just have to approach it at halftime like it’s a 0-0 game.”
Smith has passed for 3,043 yards and 42 touchdowns and rushed for 320 yards and four scores while playing in 13 of 15 games this season.
Winston-Salem State coach Connell Maynor acknowledges those numbers could be greater if that’s what the Rams were after.
“We didn’t want to get those guys hurt,” Maynor said of his starters. “Our goal wasn’t about getting individual awards; it was all about the team and getting where we are today. Anytime we got a chance to rest them, we rested them. We had high expectations all season long, but playing in 15 football games, we wanted to have our horses when we got to this game. I think we’ve accomplished that. We’re pretty healthy.”
That wasn’t the case when the Rams began their playoff run.
They got a scare when Smith suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder during the first half of a 34-19 win in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association against Elizabeth City State on Nov. 10, the week before the playoffs began.
Smith recovered during a first-round bye week and sat out a second-round win against Shippensburg.
With the Rams trailing 17-14 in the fourth quarter, Maynor tapped Smith, who led a nine-play, 52-yard drive, including a 21-yard pass down to the 5-yard line and capped by a 1-yard touchdown throw.
“It was tough because I really wanted to be out there,” Smith said of missing time early in the playoffs. “I just had to make sure I was rested up and ready to go. When coach gave me the chance to go back out there, it was a big situation, but I was ready. And I feel good now.”
Smith seemed to quell any doubt in last week’s 41-18 win against West Texas A&M, completing 15 of 23 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns while adding a 23-yard touchdown run.
That’s good news for the Rams, who average a Division II fifth-best 42.1 points a game and look to uncork some big plays against a Valdosta State defense that had trouble in that department and has allowed more than 300 yards passing three times this season.
“Their DBs are really athletic, but we have really good receivers,” Smith said. “If I just make my reads, I think we can do well.”
Bryan App can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @bappster on Twitter.