PEMBROKE — A week after gaining just 47 yards rushing in the opening-game loss, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke football team had no problems moving the ball on the ground in a 51-6 win over Elizabeth City State Saturday. Junior running back Josh Sheridan led all rushers with a game-high 78 yards and two touchdowns.
Sheridan spoke about the overall improvement in the run game.
“Basically we had a bad taste in our mouths from last week,” he said.
The Lumberton product said the Braves (1-1) offense didn’t reach its full potential until the last 12 minutes last week and they wanted to build off that in this game.
Head coach Shane Richardson was excited about what he saw from Sheridan and the offense.
“I think Josh Sheridan is a heck of a running back,” Richardson said. “I felt he did a lot of things to create those big runs out there.”
Sheridan had touchdown runs of 1 and 30 yards, the latter came on the opening drive of the third quarter. After the offense slid down the field in six quick plays, Sheridan took an outside handoff to the left. He immediately turned the corner, then stomped his foot in the turf to juke right and surgically maneuver his way around defenders to pay dirt. The touchdown stretched the score to 38-0.
True freshman quarterback Josh Jones started the game and complemented what Sheridan did on the ground. He went 10-of-19 for 100 yards and one touchdown. Redshirt freshman Joshua Dale came in to spell Jones for a couple of drives in the second quarter and went 9-of-10 for 93 yards and one touchdown. Both guys moved the ball well and Richardson says there isn’t a definitive quarterback for the team yet.
Sheridan and the offense were virtually unstoppable, but he gave praise to the special teams and defense for putting them in positions to succeed.
The Braves special teams group performed at a high level the entire night. Sheridan scored his first touchdown early in the first quarter to put the team up 14-0 after the outstanding field position given to the offense due to a blocked punt. Punter Isaac Parks only had to kick three times, but of those, he pinned two deep inside the Vikings’ 20-yard line. On average, the Braves offense started on the Vikings’ 43-yard line.
The defense kept the action on one side of the field for the majority of the contest. They set the tone early and forced a three-and-out on the first drive and didn’t give up a first down until well into the second quarter. After giving up just 18 yards of total offense in the first half, the defense surrendered just 58 additional yards in the second half. The only score was from a kickoff return by Zion Riddick with 6:28 left in the third.
Senior defensive end Tyler Hinton spoke about his unit’s commanding effort.
“We’ve always had a good defense at UNCP,“ he said. “We just want to keep that tradition going and make it even better.”
He says that “Code Black” (the school’s nickname for the defense) feeds off each other’s success and has a friendly competition when out on the field. On Saturday, “Code Black” raced each other to the quarterback and collected a season-high six sacks, the highest total since 2011. Hinton led the way with two sacks as he began and closed the first half by bringing down Vikings quarterback Kendri Patterson, who went 5-for-13 and threw for just 31 yards.
Hinton served a major role off the field, too, as he wore stickers on his helmet to honor a family for Military Appreciation night.
“It’s huge. We really appreciate people who are in service, and what they do for our country is amazing,” Hinton said concerning the gesture. “So, it’s always an honor to have those initials on the helmet.”
Despite the dominant overall performance, Sheridan says the team isn’t satisfied with just one win.
“[The win] teaches us that we need to stay hungry. We don’t want the same feeling that we had against Winston [-Salem State]. We just want to keep the train moving,” said Sheridan.
Next week, the Braves “train” travels to Catawba to take on the Indians.
Donnell Coley can be reached at 910-416-5165 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Sportsinmyveins