The UNCP football team took it on the chin against the Bulldogs of Wingate University in a 51-7 blowout at home for the second straight week. The Braves were able to prevent getting blanked on the scoreboard in consecutive weeks and were did have a few bright spots as well as glaring deficiencies.
Quarterback Competition is Settled:
The Braves coaching staff has finally settled on and are committed to a starting quarterback after an open competition through the offseason and first four games of the season.
True freshman Josh Jones is the Black and Gold’s official starter going forward and after nearly bringing the team back from behind against Winston Salem he has gotten the starting nod the past three games.
“I would say that Josh Jones is our starter. I think he has shown a lot of very good promise and it’s a concept where Josh Dale does some really good things and he works really hard and he deserves some reps,” said Head Coach Shane Richardson.
He has shown to be the more polished passer by reading the defenses, going through his reads quickly, eluding pressure, pushing the ball down field and making good decisions when given time to throw.
He leads both quarterbacks in passing yards (667), passing attempts (111) as well as completions (66), passing touchdowns (three), completion percentage (59.46%) and QBR (117.05)
“If the offense isn’t going, going, going after a few tries at it then we think that Josh Dale can kind of give a different spark at times,” said Richardson.
Receiver Corey West Excelling in the Slot:
Even though he did not lead the team in receptions or receiving yards, sophomore receiver Corey west was able to get open and convert two of his three catches into first downs. He exhibited a knack for finding soft spots in zone coverage as well as quick releases to pick up chunks of 17 and 19 yards.
“He’s quick. I think he does have some pretty reliable hands. He works really hard. I think he’s a very dependable type of guy. I think quarterbacks have confidence in him, so I think he does a pretty good job with what he has to work with. He’s able to find some holes in there to be able to get open,” said Richardson.
Pass Rush was Active:
After logging just one sack against Newberry the week before the Black and Gold pass rush bounced back by bringing down the Wingate quarterback Shaw Crocker four times. Four different Braves registered sacks and the defensive line was constantly applying pressure and hitting the passers throughout the night.
Offensive Line Struggled to Keep Quarterbacks Upright:
Both UNCP quarterbacks were under quite a bit of duress in this game and more often than not were forced to roll out of a collapsing pocket in order to complete passes.
The young group seemed overwhelmed and outmatched at times and allowed four sacks on the night.
Run Game Still Lacking Traction:
Through their first four games of the season the Braves offense are averaging 84.3 yards a game and a woeful 3 yards per carry.
They have accumulated just 462 yards on the ground this year and have only punched the ball in five times so far.
The unit has popped some big runs in every game and often seem one block away from gauging defenses on a consistent basis.
“Just stick to what we’re doing. Things might not work out right now but if you keep doing it and trusting the O-line and everything is going to work out. We just got to be patient,” said running back Josh Sheridan.
Rushing Defense Shaky in Consecutive Weeks:
While the defense front was very productive in rushing the pass, an area in which they struggled with for the second straight week was in defending the run.
The allowed a net gain of 194 yards on 47 attempts on the ground to Wingate after allowing 200 yards to the Wolves the week before.
They disrupt the run game at times and rack up tackles for loss, especially in the first half but as the game wears on they begin to wear down and allow significant gains.
“It all goes back to practice. Everything is practice. We have to practice how we play,” said Defensive lineman Domenique Davis on how the unit can play more consistently.
Red zone Struggles on Offense:
“I think we’re a good red zone team. There’s a couple times when we get in there, things don’t go our way but I think we’re based of the red zone and I just think we need to not focus more on practice. Just take it more seriously in the red zone because key to the red zone (conversions) in a lot of other games are very important so we just got to believe it and just go hard in the red zone,” said Sheridan on the unit’s inability to thrive when in scoring position.
“I think we got to be able to block consistently. We’ve got to be able to not have penalties consistently… We’ve got to be able to capitalize in the red zone. I felt like we got in the red zone but we’re not capitalizing and that’s obviously something we have to work on,” said Richardson.