PEMBROKE — It’s been just over a week since The University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s football team enjoyed the glow of the national television spotlight. For better or worse, the joy of the upset win against then-No. 5 Winston-Salem State in front of a record crowd was short-lived, replaced quickly by the reality of the season.
The Braves took team photos on Friday and followed it with practice and a review of the game film on Saturday.
“I told them ‘Hey, enjoy it, but we’ve got to get ready for Fayetteville State,’” coach Pete Shinnick said.
With a new national ranking, the No. 23 Braves have worked to get out of the limelight in preparation for Saturday night’s bout with the Broncos (0-1) in the fifth-annual Two Rivers Classic.
A win would keep the Braves a perfect 5-0 in the series.
As well as things went against Winston-Salem, Shinnick said the coaching staff left looking to refine the product.
The heart and intensity was there, he said, the problem was the execution.
Defensively, the Braves had plays that gave the Rams extra yardage where there didn’t need to be.
“We had some missed tackles, we had some dropped balls, we had some missed assignments, we had some errors that weren’t necessarily generated because we were playing Winston-Salem State, they were generated because of our errors,” Shinnick said. “There’s some plays where guys get beat and that happens, but there were assignment issues that we feel like we can clean up and we can do a better job with.”
On the offensive side, the Braves had three turnovers. Winston-Salem State’s first scoring drive came on the drive after a fumble by quarterback Luke Charles. It was the only one of the three turnovers, which also included an interception thrown by Charles and a fumble by Elliot Powell, that led to a scoring drive.
“We cannot turn the ball over three times and expect to win games,” Shinnick said. “Offensively that’s got to be a huge, huge portion of what we’re trying to accomplish.”
The other issue that the Braves ran into came on runs near the goal line. In two consecutive drives, UNCP stalled out on the 1-yard line after failing to get the runner into the end zone.
Fayetteville State will bring its own set of challenges come Saturday.
The Broncos, who are in their first season under under new coach Lawrence Kershaw, enter the game following a 29-28 loss to Virginia State in Week 1. FSU had the game won until the last second, when the Trojans hit a field goal to win the game.
The first game in the new system showed a pass-heavy system that relied heavily on junior quarterback Jemeryn Jenkins, who went 13-for-25 for 219 yards in his first game since transferring in from Victor Valley (Calif.) Community College.
Jenkins played a dual threat and also led his team with 26 total rushing yards. He had three all-purpose touchdowns, two on completed passes and one on a rush.
His main target was Kasunn Williams, a junior originally from Rocky Mount who accounted for 121 yards on four catches, including a 62-yard touchdown grab. No other receiver had more than 35 yards.
“(Jenkins) can sling it and they’ve got a very good deep threat,” Shinnick said. “They went four wides the whole game, so we’ve got our work cut out for us. It’s a different type of offense than we faced last week.”
Defensively, the Broncos had seven tackles for losses and two sacks last weekend. Shinnick said they’ll bring a variety of players on the line, which means the Braves will have to work hard to make the holes.
Though the game isn’t televised, Shinnick expects the rivalry to provide a similar atmosphere to the opener.
“It’s a big regional game for us,” he said. “I think there’s going to be a lot of fans there, it’s going to be a great crowd. As we go into this, we’ve been fortunate. They’re probably the feeling the same way we have against Winston-Salem. We were fortunate to get the victory, and we’re looking to get one.”
No. 23 UNC Pembroke
at Fayetteville State
6 p.m. Saturday
at Luther “Nick’ Jerards Stadium
Need to know:
Fresh off their victory over then-No. 5 Winston Salem State, the Braves have their eyes set on a different No. 5 — their fifth straight win against rival Fayetteville State in the annual Two Rivers Classic. UNCP trailed 14-10 at halftime last year but came back to win 31-21 to go up 4-0 in the series. The Broncos allowed a last-second field goal in Saturday’s 29-28 loss to Virginia State, which was the debut of new coach Lawrence Kershaw.
General admission tickets are $20 and will be available at the gate. Tailgating for adults aged 21 and up is permitted in Lot K starting at 2 p.m. Reservations need to be made in advance. A radio broadcast of the game will be on WFSS-FM 91.9. Live stats and video can be accessed online at www.fsubroncos.com.