PEMBROKE — The bye week for The University of North Carolina at Pembroke football team this week draws focus to just about every aspect of the game of football for the young team that is now midway through the season.
UNCP (1-5) is off to the worst start to a season in program history, since the 2014 team started 1-8. The Braves have six starters on offense that are freshmen and the off week is a teaching week with a laundry list of things that coach Shane Richardson and his staff are working on with his team.
“We’ve just got to continue to work football fundamentals,” he said. “Eyes, hands, feet, pad level, blocking, tackling, throwing and catching, ball security and all that kind of stuff. We’ve got to make sure we reiterate how important that is.”
Through six games, UNCP has been outscored by an average of four points per game, are tied in the turnover battle with its opponents and have been out-gained by an average of 50 yards of total offense per contest.
Rushing yardage might be the largest disparity of all its offensive statistics. Opponents have out-rushed the Braves 155-99 on average per game. In four of the six games, UNCP has failed to rush for 100 yards. Running backs Josh Sheridan and Miles Grant lead the team with 197 and 195 yards total, respectively, and quarterback Dominick Samson close behind with 136.
Samson shook off struggles that he had the previous three games with a four-touchdown performance in the 31-28 loss at Wingate. He surpassed the 1,000-yard passing mark against the Bulldogs.
On the defensive side of the ball, Tyler Hinton leads the defense with six sacks. The Braves have 19 total this season, which is on track to challenge the program record of 40 sacks in the season set by the 2008 team.
“What we want to do is continue to work fundamentals and we want to build on the things we have done well. We’ve taken a look at the first six games and we’re trying to see the things that are fundamentally out of place and things we can get better at,” Richardson said.
In the loss to Wingate, the Braves found points to build off after hanging around, and coming a last-second shot at the end zone away from possibly winning the game.
“Nobody is satisfied with the result of the scoreboard of course. I think that’s something to keep in mind, but there’s still a lot of things in that game that we proved to ourself and that we really showed a lot of other people,” Richardson said. “We can definitely build off that and keep the momentum going for that.”
With a road trip to Concord coming up a week from tomorrow, next week brings in a week of game prep ahead of the matchup against the 1-5 Mountain Lions. This week is the basics.
“We really haven’t done anything with Concord. There’s not a whole lot that we have right now. They still have another game this weekend and we want to make sure we get the full game plan breakdown in before we give it to the guys,” Richardson said. “We’re trying to focus on ourselves and there will be time to break down Concord next week.”
Fall break for students was Thursday and Friday, and an early practice today allowed the players to have an extended weekend off to recoup and heal.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.