The UNCP football team was firing on all cylinders in all three phases of the game when faced against the Vikings of Elizabeth City State University on Sept. 8 at Grace P. Johnson Stadium in their home opener in front of a rambunctious home crowd.
The Braves’ special team units played an integral part in not just putting up points via field goals and extra points after touchdowns but also in setting up the other two phases of the team for success with excellent field position for the offense and pinning the opposition back so that the defense could pin their ears back and go hunt.
The punt return unit provided juice and set up the offense with short fields on multiple occasions throughout the game.
They applied constant pressure on the Vikings punter and managed to get a block in the first quarter to set up the Braves’ second scoring drive.
Redshirt sophomore defensive back Devin Jones was an absolute monster in the return game on the night racking up 74-yards on five punt returns.
He showed an impressive knack for quickly getting upfield and finding the open lanes after making the initial would-be tackler miss.
Sophomore receiver Corey West had the second longest return on his lone opportunity of the night with a 29 yarder.
Jones’ longest return of the night went for 31 yards and set the Braves up at the Vikings 16-yard line, which led to one of Alex Alvarado’s two converted field goals of the night just four plays later.
“Very electric,” said Richardson about Jones. “That was our plan to get him rolling. He is very fast and if he can make the first guy miss then I think he always puts himself in a position to be able to score and give us great field position.”
Having a weapon that can flip the field and give an already suffocating defense an even bigger advantage by setting up the opposing team’s offense inside of their own 20 or even 10-yard line is extremely helpful. That is exactly what the Braves have in redshirt sophomore punter Isaac Parks.
While he only had three opportunities to shine, the Greensboro native made the most of his three chances to pin ECSU back deep.
He racked up 138 yards with his best punt being a 42 yarder that went out of bounds with surgical precision at the opponents 3-yard line.
“He feels really good right now. I think he’s really punting the ball well,” Richardson said. “He’s very energetic about what he’s doing and very confident about what he’s doing so that does really help.”