Football stuns fifith ranked WSSU
By Jonathan Bym Managing Editor
Setember 12, 2013
|Photo by Cody Parker
Quarterback Luke Charles looks to connect with wide receiver Te’vell Williams on a swing pass. Williams had eight catches for 46 yards in the win over Winston-Salem State University.
The football home opener for UNCP against fifth-ranked Winston-Salem State on Sept. 5 was the culmination of months of buildup and excitement. Between the pregame festivities, the national broadcast on CBS Sports Network and a record setting crowd, the game followed suit with a very competitive game ending with the Braves earning a 25-21 win.
“To bump the number five team in the nation is not a bad way to start off the season and to do it on national TV makes it even better,” UNCP Head Coach Pete Shinnick said.
“We got to take our hats off to Pembroke; they played well in all phases of the game,” WSSU coach Connell Maynor said.
With 4:24 left in the third quarter, WSSU running back Maurice Lewis rushed in to score a touchdown from six yards out to make the score 21-12. The Lumberton-native scored two touchdowns in the third quarter to negate a 12-7 halftime deficit and turn the momentum into the Rams’ favor.
In the next series for the Braves, senior quarterback Luke Charles was able to move the ball into Ram territory at the 43-yard line. The next play, Charles looked to go down field, but Larry Hearne intercepted his pass. Hearne recorded two picks against the Black and Gold last season.
From there the mood in the stadium was dead, as it seemed as though WSSU would carry their offensive rhythm to score more points and leave Grace P. Johnson Stadium with a fourth straight win in the series.
On their first play from scrimmage, WSSU quarterback Anthony Carrothers dropped back to pass, and UNCP cornerback Mike Lawrence at the 44-yard line picked off his pass. Lawrence then turned around and made a complete circle around the field and was able to dodge defenders and come back to score a touchdown for the Braves to make the score 21-19.
The play woke up the crowd and the sidelines and brought the UNCP contingent of the 7,949 people to their feet cheering.
“It was a big game changer that changed the mood on the sidelines and in the stands,” Lawrence said of what he saw after he scored off the interception.
“What a way to pick up a teammate than to do that,” Charles said.
The result from the play not only brought the Braves back into the game, but also pumped up a stagnant offense.
“When Mike did that, our offense started looking better,” Shinnick said.
Lawrence came in early in the game as LJ Stroman was ejected for targeting.
After forcing a three-and-out on defense the following series, UNCP’s offense started near midfield with 41 seconds left in the third quarter. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Charles aired out a 31-yard pass to John Rich that put the Braves inside the 10-yard line. Much like in the first half, the UNCP offense stalled near the goal line and was forced to kick a field goal.
Connor Haskins’s kick from 22 yards out was good and UNCP held its first lead since 13:04 left in the third quarter. Haskins was 3-for-3 in the game with field goals from 19, 22 and 44 yards. His 44-yarder was the final one of the game, and it pushed the score to its final margin of 25-21.
The game did not end quietly by any means. Winston-Salem State and UNCP punted in back-to-back possessions following the Haskins field goal. Under two minutes left in the game, Carrothers stood in the pocket looking for an open receiver. Carrothers saw the pocket was collapsing and started to run up the middle, but defensive lineman Steven Moore was able to poke the ball out of his hands and senior linebacker Fred Williams fell on the ball to give UNCP the ball with 1:53 left.
Just needing to run out the clock, the first play from the Braves offense was an outside run from senior running back Elliott Powell, but Jerome Junior from WSSU forced a fumble and gave the ball back to the visitors with 1:44 left.
Carrothers marched the Rams 30 yards to midfield. On second and 10 from their own 48-yard line, Carrothers looked to gain a first down near the UNCP 30-yard line, but Dominique Bridges jumped the route and intercepted the pass to give the Braves the ball with 37 seconds left securing the victory. Bridges was active on defense as he had five tackles along with the pick.
To open the game both teams were forced to punt on their opening drives.
On the WSSU punt, Rakeem Overby fielded the punt at his own 8-yard line and was able to record a 55-yard return and put the Braves at the Ram’s 37-yard line.
UNCP was able to get inside the 5-yard line but were unable to score. On fourth and goal, the Rams came up with a stop of a Powell run to get a turnover on downs at the 1-yard line.
The second play of the next series for WSSU was a fullback handoff, and Rayvon Stanback was able to cut through the Ram’s offensive line to stop Rickey Burns for a safety.
On the kickoff, George Whigman was able to return the ball to the WSSU 17-yardline for a 69-yard return.
The Braves reached the 1-yard line once again but failed to punch the ball across the goal line and had to settle for a field goal.
UNCP’s lead reached 12-0, as Tamari White was able to score on a 1-yard run to score a touchdown, which was the Braves’ only offensive touchdown of the game.
Last season, Lewis rushed over the Braves with 144 yards, but the front seven of the UNCP defense did a great job at keeping the 1,000-yard rusher in check as he had only 29 yards on the day.
“I felt good about them (the defense) and what they were doing out there,” Shinnick said.
For the Braves, Charles went 24-for-39 for 218 yards while his counterpart, Carrothers, completed the same number of passes for 254 yards and rushed for 64 yards.
Powell led the game in rushing as he finished with 75 yards on the ground.
UNCP will now go into the fifth annual Two Rivers Classic against Fayetteville State after the win, and the Broncos will enter 0-1 after a 29-28 loss to Virginia State.