That kind of quarterback efficiency would seem fitting to attach with UNCP gunslinger Luke Charles, a reigning honorable mention All-American. But that’s not the case.
Those figures are what Wingate’s first-year quarterback Robbie Nallenweg has produced in his first two collegiate starts.
Meanwhile, the Braves’ Charles, a second-year starter, has struggled to a mere 388 passing yards, two touchdowns, a 60-percent accuracy rate and, most glaring of all, four interceptions — he threw just seven in 11 games last season. Wingate’s Nallenweg has thrown three picks thus far.
The most important numbers, though, the ones found in the win column, are equal. That will change Saturday when UNCP (1-1) and Wingate (1-1) knock helmets at Irwin Belk Stadium.
“What’s interesting is it seems like whoever they have back there (at quarterback), year after year, he gets the job done,” UNCP head coach Pete Shinnick said of the Bulldogs. “That’s one of the specialties of their head coach (Joe Reich), he does a really good job. He does a good job of putting their quarterback in a position to be successful.”
The Bulldogs’ clockwork efficiency at quarterback has led to four victories over the Braves in their five meetings, including last season’s 29-26 overtime win at Grace P. Johnson Stadium. A UNCP letdown in which Wingate rallied with 16 unanswered points in the final 9:54 to force overtime, compiling 446 yards total offense on the day.
“We know that every year we’re going to play a very well-coached, aggressive team on both sides of the ball,” Shinnick said. UNCP’s lone win over Wingate came in 2009, a 24-13 victory. “The first year they killed us (57-14) but since then it’s been pretty good.”
After losing their season openers, both teams are coming off second-week wins. Wingate routed then-No. 16 Albany State, 37-9, behind Nallenweg’s 292 yards and four touchdowns on 30-of-44 passing, earning him South Atlantic Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors.
In Pembroke, following an hour and a half lightning delay, UNCP outlasted rival Fayetteville State, 31-21, for the fourth straight Two Rivers Classic title. The Braves managed to rally in the second half and upend the Broncos despite Charles’ worst outing of his career under center, throwing 107 yards on 15-of-33 passing with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Shinnick expects Charles to shake off his subpar Week 2 showing.
“I felt like with the weather, some of his deep balls were definitely off,” Shinnick said. “We had a couple of drops and a couple of miscommunication … I’m expecting him to get back to the level that we think he’s capable of throwing at.”
So does Charles.
“I was completely out of rhythm, but we got the opportunity to say that we’re 1-1 at the end of the day even though it was ugly,” he said.
Picking up the passing game’s slack and shouldering the offensive load against FSU were running backs Damonte Terry and Elliott Powell who combined for 197 yards and four touchdowns. Powell provided breakaway runs, including a 69-yard score, while Terry bull-rushed through the Broncos defense and finished off drives in the red zone.
A chain-moving duo that only helps open up the offense for Charles and his receiving corps, led by Te’vell Williams who has a team-leading 11 catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns.
“People have to respect that we can run the ball and that’s just going to help me out in the game throwing-wise,” Charles said. “That should make for a good (offensive) combination.”
Wingate, meanwhile, has been slow out of the blocks this year. The Bulldogs have just 121 total rush yards on 54 carries — split between a committee of five different backs — for an average of just 2.2 yards a carry and 60.5 a game.
UNCP’s defense, which is allowing an avearge of 166.5 rushing yards through two games, is looking to tighten the gaps this weekend against a feeble Wingate running game.
“We’ve been practicing just on focusing on the fundamentals and technique and doing the little things right,” sophomore linebacker Cadarreus Mason said. He racked up a team-high 12 tackles last week against FSU.
Last season the Braves defense gave up an average of 27.3 points a game, the most since the program’s inaugural 2007 campaign. They haven’t made huge strides just yet, but giving up a 24.5-average heading into Week 3 is a start.
“Last year at this time the first half of the season we were really bad (defensively),” Shinnick said. “Our defense knew coming in over the summer how we had to approach it and how we had to attack it. I’m really pleased with they way they are playing. We’ve got to do a great job this week in order to contain a very good offensive team.”