Smith and Horton help UNCP soar over Hawks 26-20
By Brad Crawford
MURFREESBORO - Any questions of whether or not backup quarterbacks Cory Smith and Ryan Horton could fill the void left by injured starter Matt Evans were answered Sept. 29 as UNCP beat Chowan 26-20, racking up 473 yards of total offense including 313 through the air.
The Hawks (1-5) never had an answer for the UNCP offense in the first half as the Braves scored touchdowns on three of five possessions.
UNCP’s (2-3) 473 yards of offense, their highest output of the season and nearly 200 more than they averaged over the previous four games, was highlighted by 51 and 83-yard touchdown passes from Smith and Horton.
Horton’s 83-yard connection to Al Bryant for the touchdown in the first quarter, gave UNCP a 13-0 lead and was Horton’s first snap of the game.
Both UNCP quarterbacks split time under center as Smith completed 16-25 passes for 195 yards while Horton was 4-8 for 118.
“Both Cory and Ryan executed the game plan the way that we wanted them to. Both guys played very well. Ryan gave us a deep ball that kind of loosened their defense up for us and our running game,” said UNCP head coach Pete Shinnick.
If the passing game wasn’t enough for the Braves, South View High School graduate Brandon McLaurin entered the game in the first quarter for injured Rashan Kennedy, and gained 137 yards on 30 carries.
“I am very pleased with the way Brandon McLaurin stepped up for us today. He ran really hard and that was a nice thing to see,” said coach Shinnick.
UNCP’s defense showed signs of improvement limiting the Hawks to 263 total yards, registering three sacks and recovering a fumble for a touchdown in the process.
Ben Kurti’s recovery in the endzone following a Dewayne James sack-and-strip of Chowan’s quarterback gave UNCP a commanding 26-13 lead with 6:36 remaining in the third quarter.
The Hawks would score a touchdown to pull within six at 26-20, but that’s as close as they would get as UNCP finalized the victory.
UNCP defensive tackle James Alexander led the stout Black and Gold defensive attack with a pair of tackles for losses and a quarterback sack.
Anthony Rhanes broke up two passes for the Braves and picked up four tackles.