PEMBROKE — Coming off a 32-point loss at home last Saturday, the sense of urgency and the resiliency surrounding The University of North Carolina at Pembroke football team is what has struck coach Shane Richardson this week and has shown the maturity of the team wanting to move past the loss.
That is expected for the young Braves, who have experienced a lot through three weeks, that are looking to get back on their home field to wash the taste of the loss to Catawba out of their mouths. It was a loss where the offense failed to string together drives and the defense was unable to come up with stops to help out the struggling offense. That chance for redemption comes Saturday as the Braves host Tusculum at 7 p.m.
“I think when you’re sitting here at 1-2 and you lose a game like you did last Saturday, I think it can serve as a wake-up call and grab a lot of people’s attention,” Richardson said. “I think a lot of guys have came out with a greater sense of urgency.”
While UNCP (1-2) as a whole is looking to show how resilient it can be against Tusculum (1-2), freshman quarterback Dominick Samson is looking for redemption for his first bad experience as a college quarterback. In the second half against Catawba, he threw three interceptions, one for a pick six, after going two games without an turnover to start his career.
“I’m just trying to have a great week against Tusculum. My teammates have got my back and they told me that during the game and all throughout the week. I’m ready to just get back out there,” Samson said. “I learned about just seeing coverages better and seeing the safety. It’s just about being smart when going through my secondary reads.”
“He’s had a resilient mentality in the way that he has approached the game this week,” Richardson said. “He has not let it affect how he comes out here to practice or the way he attacks meetings. His energy and confidence levels are good.”
The Pioneers are coming off an overtime loss to Limestone to start off South Atlantic Conference play. Junior quarterback Alex Ogle leads an offense that passes for 233 yards per game and rushes for 108 yards per contest to Pembroke, where the program has never won. Ogle has three veterans running routes for him in receivers Evan Altizer and Evan Gates, who are averaging 50 receiving yards a game, and tight end Shaw Harris, who is third on the team in receptions.
The experience in that passing attack will challenge the Braves’ secondary that has allowed opponents to throw for 177 yards per game, seven touchdowns and three interceptions.
“We’ve been trying to throw a lot of looks at them and make sure that we can give them everything we’ve seen in film so they can feel comfortable going in,” Richardson said.
In the two losses, the Braves have struggled to move the ball with just three drives that lasted longer than 35 yards. With some inconsistency up front with the UNCP offensive line the past few weeks due to injuries, Richardson expects the same front to come out on Saturday as it did against Catawba, hoping to lead to a better flowing offense.
“It’s coming together really well, but as a whole they are continuing it get better and I think there’s a lot of hope for them,” Richardson said. “One of the great things about our offense and our team in general is they do a great job of supporting each other.”
This game is the third home contest in four weeks for the Braves, and after Saturday, only one more game will be played at Grace P. Johnson Stadium, on Oct. 28 for homecoming and senior day. Home field, entering the year was a place of comfort for the Braves as it was 10-0 in its previous two seasons, but an 0-2 start at home is what they face now.
“It’s a little different because we’re used to having at least five (home games). We love playing at home, but I told the team that if you want to be a good team you have to win on the road and go into someone else’s environment,” Richardson said. “We want to play well in front of our home crowd, and all the people that come out to support us. We are just trying to take it one game at a time and make sure that we played better than we did a week ago.”
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.