Braves’ Fourth Quarter Rally Falls Just Short Against the Rams
The UNCP football team started off their 2018 campaign on the road in what was supposed to be a Saturday college match-up with the Winston-Salem University Rams. The game was played on Sept. 2 at Bowman Gray Stadium due to nearby lightning storms throughout the night on the game’s original date of Sept. 1. Despite their resurgent fourth quarter, the Braves were not able to complete their comeback and fell to Rams 20-23. In their first taste of Sunday action, the Braves struggled to find their footing in the first 48 minutes of the contest. Another nearby lightning storm caused a delay in the game and just so happened to give the Black and Gold the jolt they needed. However, their late game heroics proved to be futile as they would ultimately be undone by a fluke play in a familiar menace in Kerrion Moore caught a pass that had deflected off of the hands of its intended receiver into his before he raced down the sideline for the go ahead 63-yard score. In a rematch of last year’s season opener that went down to the wire and saw the Black and Gold suffer a slim 31-34 loss, this time around was no different and even ended in more dramatic fashion. After not being able to move the ball with much consistency prior to Mother Nature’s delay of game, the Braves found themselves facing a 16-0 deficit.
Their offense then exploded in the final 12 minutes of play.
Redshirt freshman Joshua Dale started the game at quarterback and was reinserted into the lineup for a few more drives sporadically, but it was true freshman Josh Jones that showed his promise and poise under center. It was also Jones who orchestrated the furious fourth quarter offensive flurry that saw his team take their first lead of the game with 1:50 left in the contest. The Rams built up their 16-0 lead after a few miscues by the Braves in all three phases of the game resulted in points for the opposition.
Winston-Salem’s first score came following a broken play when the quarterback Rod Tinsley found a wide-open receiver for a 51-yard bomb that set up a go-ahead touchdown in the redzone. The second came via high snap that soared over the punter’s head and out of the back of the endzone for a safety.
The third came when the Braves appeared to be driving but then a fumbled snap by the center lead to a five-play, 55-yard scoring drive for the home team. Coming out of the lighting induced delay, it seemed as if the Black and Gold offense had been struck by one of the nearby bolts and brought to life behind the leadership and stellar play of the freshman Jones. He began finding open receivers inside and outside of the numbers as well as downfield. Jones finished the day 21-32 for 248-yards and two touchdowns and a passer rating of 151.4 as well as finding 10 different pass catchers. Braves receivers made several chunk plays in impressive fashion and had five players finish with multiple catches.
Redshirt junior Quay Threatt lead the team in catches with five for 45 yards and a touchdown and redshirt freshman Tyshawn Carter lead the team in receiving yards with 79 on just three catches and a score. Redshirt junior Josh Sheridan lead the team in rushing on the day with 54-yards on 15 carries and scored the Braves’ second touchdown of the game. He also reeled in a catch off of a check down pass and shrugged off a would-be tackler before weaving through traffic to set up the offense at Winston’s 10-yard line before punching in his go ahead score from a yard out a few plays later. Although they fell victim to a few big plays, the Braves’ defense applied constant pressure on the Rams’ quarterbacks as four different players finished with sacks.
Senior defensive linemen Tajai Liles and Tyler Hinton were especially disruptive in the backfield as the both registered a sack and two tackles for loss each.