PEMBROKE — The University of North Carolina at Pembroke football team got back on the winning track Saturday.
A week after losing their first game of the season while having the worst offensive day of the 2013 campaign, the Braves returned for Saturday’s homecoming game, setting a school scoring record in a 60-20 win over Tusculum.
“For us to do that after a loss like that, come back and score a school record, it’s a reflection of the hard work we had all week, the determination to never let that happen again,” said UNCP quarterback Luke Charles.
The school’s previous scoring high was 58 points, set in 2011 against Tusculum.
In the form of seven touchdowns, three field goals and a safety, the Braves went up 33-7 at halftime and never let off the gas, even as the defense struggled at times against one of the most elite quarterbacks in Division II. It keeps the UNCP (7-2) in the hunt for a playoff spot.
“This is something we needed to do,” said UNCP coach Pete Shinnick. “We needed to be able to come back off a difficult game last week and perform at the level that we think we’re capable of.”
Balancing his passing amongst four receivers, Charles finished the game 30 for 46 passing with four touchdowns, each to a different receiver.
B.J. Bunn was the primary benefactor, finishing with a season-high 105 yards on eight receptions with one touchdown, including a 28-yard touchdown catch that put UNCP up 10-7 in the first quarter.
Michael Isbell had a 17-yard touchdown on a reverse for his only rush of the game in the second quarter, then snagged a 12-yard touchdown pass two and a half minutes later as the only player to score multiple times.
Otherwise, it was a rotating case with John Rich snagging a 15-yard reception in the first half. In the second half, Te’vell Williams caught a 50-yard pass, Demetrius Fairley had a four-yard run.
The Braves had 184 rushing yards, up from 27 last week, and were led by Rontonio Stanley with 115 on 15 carries.
The defense even helped out, scoring two points on a safety when Tusculum snapped it out of the endzone on a punt in the second quarter. UNCP’s last touchdown of the game was on a 91-yard interception return by Brandon Fulton.
Fulton picked it off near the middle of the field and ran towards the right sidelines, escaping from several large clusters of players before making his break down the right side.
“That was an amazing run. I thought he was down on two occasions,” Shinnick said, crediting the rest of the team for giving him the running lanes. “Once he got cleared from that first wave where we thought he was down and then he kept going, it was fun. He’s going to outrun some offensive linemen. I think that’s all that was left.”
The interception was a rare slip up for Tusculum’s Bo Cordell, who set a Division II record for career passing yards last week against Wingate.
He led scoring drives on his team’s first drive each half and finished 28 for 41 with 310 yards. Shinnick said the goal, which UNCP accomplished, was to avoid touchdown passes.
“There’s a reason he’s the leading all time passer in the history of Division II,” Shinnick said “He’s very, very good, very, very gifted. We knew he’d connect on some things. Our main thing was that we wanted to keep him out of the endzone and keep them from scoring. Except for two lapses on our part defensively in the third quarter, we got what we wanted.”