Sep. 17—GLENVILLE, W.V. — Momentum can continue from week to week in college football, perhaps more than any other sport.
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke football team hopes the positive momentum gained from last week’s 50-26 win over West Virginia Wesleyan can, indeed, continue as the Braves travel to Glenville State for a 2 p.m. kickoff Saturday.
“I like that we were able to score a lot of points, and we were able to run the ball, which has been a little bit of a sore spot for us,” UNCP coach Shane Richardson said. “I think that is a great momentum booster and can give us a little bit of confidence moving forward, and we hope to be able to build on that.”
Last week’s win was the first time UNCP has scored 50-plus points since Sept. 8, 2018 against Elizabeth City State, and came as the Braves (1-1, 1-0 Mountain East Conference) rushed for 383 yards, a school record. Two redshirt freshman paced that ground effort, with JaQuan Kelly running for 183 yards and three touchdowns and Zechariah Adams-Duckson running for 120 yards and one touchdown.
After the Braves have struggled running the ball in recent years — ranking fourth worst in Division II in rushing yards per game last season — Richardson hopes last week’s game provides confidence to continue the ground success.
“We’re hoping to build on that; I think guys now can see a little bit of the vision of what can be, and they’re working towards that and motivated towards that and being able to know that they’ve done it once, and that certainly is the expectation from here on out,” Richardson said.
Glenville State (1-1, 0-1 MEC) has also had some success moving the ball through its first two games, averaging 163.0 rushing yards and 472.0 total yards of offense per game. The Pioneers lost last week’s conference opener 21-7 to Concord after opening the season Sept. 1 with a 44-15 win at Quincy. Saturday’s game against the Braves is Glenville State’s home opener.
Pioneers quarterback Jeff Miller has completed less than half his pass attempts this season, but has still thrown for 554 yards and five touchdowns, with one interception. Miller has completed passes to 11 receivers, six of which have three or more receptions, led by Orion Bonner, Isaac Myers and Javian Bellamy. Alfred Menjor (151 rushing yards, one touchdown) is the Pioneers’ leading rusher.
“What they like to do is they like to get the ball in their playmakers hands, they like to be able to take some shots on you to keep you honest, and they’re going to make you work hard on defense,” So we’ve got to be very sound; we’re going to have to be really disciplined and really aggressive to make sure that we don’t just sit back against them, because they can be aggressive on offense.”
Linebackers Seth Arnold (17 tackles) and Sean Bowers (16 tackles) and defensive lineman Marion Lawson (two sacks) are among the Pioneers’ leaders on defense.
While Saturday is not the Braves’ first road game of the season, after a 15-13 season-opening loss at Fayetteville State on Sept. 3, it is their first long road trip, prompting a different routine than in the team’s first two contests.
“I think it just depends on the maturity of your team, the personality of your team. Certain teams can travel well, and I think certain teams at other times maybe don’t have the right leadership to be able to set a good tone for how to travel well,” Richardson said. “We’re able to, hopefully, put our guys in that position where they understand the routine and we keep them focused, and it’s a great opportunity to go into a different environment and go on a long road trip and be able to show exactly what we can do. You’ve got to be able to win on the road to be a good college football team.”
UNCP is 4-0 all-time against Glenville State, including meetings the last two seasons as MEC opponents. The Braves won 36-22 in Pembroke 52 weeks ago.
Chris Stiles can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter at @StilesOnSports.