Josh Sheridan carries the ball through the Wingate defense. Sheridan had UNCP’s only score in the game. PN Photo/Trevon Knight
After being shutout for the first time in just over a decade, the UNCP football team looked to bounce back from the underwhelming performance against the Bulldogs of Wingate University at home in Grace P. Johnson Stadium on Oct. 6.
Instead, they again fell flat in front of the home crowd for a second consecutive week and while they were not shutout, they did struggle to preform consistently in all three phases of the game as well as capitalize on scoring opportunities when they were available.
“There were some bright spots… There were some things that did go well and some plays…I thought our offense showed some good things and again that’s where we’re not that far away. Its just mistakes start to compound and before you know it in a college football game a good opponent jumps on those,” said Head Coach Shane Richardson.
The game got off to a rough start after the Black and Gold offense got on the field first and found some success on their opening drive before redshirt junior runningback Josh Sheridan fumbled on the Braves first play in Wingate territory.
While the Bulldogs wouldn’t capitalize off the turnover on the ensuing drive, they would go on to score 34 unanswered points and wouldn’t punt again until it was nearly the fourth quarter.
The Braves had a couple of opportunities to get on the scoreboard in the first half, but redshirt freshman placekicker Shawn Andrews would miss his only attempt of the night wide right of the goal post.
Regular starter Alex Alvarado would have his only attempt blocked with 24 seconds left before halftime after the Wingate overloaded one side of the line.
The attempt was set up after redshirt quarterback Josh Dale took advantage of a Bulldog defender jumping offsides and found receiver Aaron Whitaker for his only snag of the night for 40 yards.
Whitaker was able to fight through obvious pass interference on the free play and with a defender draped all over him, he was still able to haul in and complete the catch.
The Braves lone scoring drive came midway through the third quarter and while it did benefit from a pair of Wingate pass interference penalties, it was still a well-orchestrated drive by starting true freshman quarterback Josh Jones.
Jones was able to find redshirt junior receiver Quay Threatt deep for a 53-yard completion to put the Black and Gold into the red zone.
After a penalty set them at the six-yard line and a rush for no gain on first down, Sheridan would rumble into the endzone off of the right side of the line.
The offense was able to move the ball and pick up first downs at times throughout the game, but it seemed just when they were getting into a rhythm an untimely penalty or debilitating negative play would disrupt whatever they had going.
“We had a couple splash plays and good plays. I think we shot ourselves in the foot a lot of times. We would have a good play and then we would have a personal foul or holding or false start or turnover. I just think we need to just build off the momentum that we have and do a better job of focusing up on the keys, the snap count and protecting the ball,” said Sheridan.
While the defense was able to rack up four sacks on the night, they were often susceptible to allowing big plays through the air and allowed far too many manageable down and distance situations.
“I thought defensively we were just one step kind of behind or short or a guy not wrapping up here or there and before you know it, it just turns into bigger gain than what you expect,” said Richardson.
They allowed five completions of over 15 yards to five different pass catchers and three receptions of over 30 yards.
The rushing defense struggled as well and even though they didn’t allow an individual 100-yard rusher, the Bulldogs did rack up 194 net yards on the ground.
“Guys have to stay in their gaps. We got to be more physical than them. We got to be able to get off blocks. You got to stop the run, got to have good low pad leverage and you got to be able to make sure you got a hat in every gap. We didn’t tackle very well either,” said Richardson.
Jones lead the Braves in passing completing 17 of his 29 attempts for 172 yards and only took one sack compared to Dales three.
Sheridan led the team in rushing with 10 carries for 64 yards and a touchdown. His longest rush was a 32-yard scamper and he also hauled in a pair of catches for 31 yards.
Threatt lead all receivers with 63 yards on three receptions, highlighted by the 53-yard bomb.
Redshirt junior defensive linemen Domenique Davis tied with redshirt senior defensive back Josh Manns for the team lead in tackles and also added a sack.