While it took the UNCP football team’s season nearly 24 hours from its originally scheduled date and time of kick off to get going, it took 48 minutes of game action and yet another lighting related delay to jumpstart the Braves offense against the Winston-Salem State Rams.
It wasn’t until play resumed following the pause in what seemed to be a shut out in the making, that the offense came to life scored on their first three drives of what felt like an entirely new game and what looked like an entirely different team emerged from the locker room.
Up until that point in the season opener it appeared as if the offensive attack had not just mirrored some of the dismal performances from last year’s team, but it looked as if they had taken a step back as they struggle to move the ball on a consistent basis.
The team also kept interchanging quarterbacks throughout the first three quarters with redshirt freshman Joshua Dale receiving the start, but it was true freshman Joshua Jones that showed what he could do and what the offense is capable of with him under center.“He’s got a lot of natural talent,” Head Coach Shane Richardson said of Jones’ ability.
“His ability to throw the ball and be very accurate and he’s got a strong arm. That really bodes well from him. He’s a real student of the game, he really gets the game, he understands it cerebrally and can really put things together out there very well.”
The Wilmington North Carolina native and former John T. Hoggard High School stand out exhibited every trait that his coach believes makes him a qualified quarterback and efficient passer as soon as he was inserted into the game midway through the second quarter.Jones was able to help the offense find some traction and pick up a few first downs.
He showed the ability to handle pressure while still keeping his eyes down the field, make crisp throws and thread the needle into tight windows as well as throw on the run.His capacity to view the entire field and work through his progressions in what was often a collapsing pocket was made evident on a particular play on the Braves second scoring drive where he made his reads and found redshirt junior running back Josh Sheridan on a underneath check down out of the backfield.
Sheridan would shake off the initial contact and make his way down the field for a 33-yard gain.On the team’s first touchdown drive, Jones marched the offensive unit down the field for the score which was highlighted by a 35-yard bomb to redshirt freshman receiver Tyshawn Carter down the left sideline and followed that up just a few plays later with a seven-yard strike in the back-left corner of the endzone to redshirt junior Quay Threatt.
Jones was not done launching bombs to Carter on the day as he found the speedy receiver streaking down the right sideline this time around and delivered an absolute dime for a 40-yard touchdown.
Carter appears to be the team’s newest deep threat as he hauled in three passes for a team leading 79-yards for an eye popping 26.3-yards per snag.
Threatt and sophomore Corey West proved to be reliable chain movers on the day as they both consistently got open and made contested as well as acrobatic catches all over the field.
The true freshman passer spread the wealth among his targets throughout the contest, hitting 10 different skilled positions and hopefully he has proved worthy to be given the chance to be the teams starter from start to finish going forward.
Despite barely eclipsing the half century mark on the ground, Sheridan showed great vison, quick feet, nifty moves and versatility to be dynamic coming out of the backfield with his lone catch of the day going for big yardage.