PEMBROKE – Undisputable winners in each of their first two contests, the UNCP football team will pack its show up yet again on Saturday when the Braves battle undefeated Wingate in a 1:30 p.m. kickoff at Irwin Belk Stadium.
The Braves (2-0) will make the short trek up U.S. 74 in hopes of atonement for a 57-14 loss at home last season in which the Bulldogs (2-0) racked up 542 yards of total offense, including 231 yards on the ground. General admission tickets will be available for various prices at the gate, with the game set to be broadcast live by the Wingate Football Radio Network.
Live video, as well as live statistics, will also be offered by the official Internet home of the Wingate athletic department, Sports.Wingate.edu. Both links will be provided free of charge.
Ranked 26th nationally in rushing defense, the Black and Gold will look to slow an offense that has scored 34 or more points in each of its first two games. Wingate threw for 239 yards in a 34-10 win at Saint Paul’s in their season opener, and then averaged 6.2 yards per carry and punched in a pair of scores in a 35-31 comeback victory at North Greenville last week.
Quarterback J.D. Moore has generated a lion’s share of the offense for the Bulldogs this season, racking up 374 yards and four touchdowns on 29-of-50 passing with one interception, with two other Wingate quarterbacks (James Hall, Cody Haffly) combining for 9-of-10 passing for 74 yards and one score. Moore completed 21-of-30 passes for 291 yards and four touchdowns in last year’s dismantling of UNCP.
However, the offensive attack is just as lethal on the ground where Nelson Woods averages better than six yards per carry, while amassing 216 rushing yards on the season. Four different receivers, including Woods, have seven or more receptions this season with both Shawn Barrett and Jordan Softcheck boasting a pair of scoring catches.
Defensively, linebacker Dietrich Wright leads the squad with 15 tackles on the season, with Greg Harmon chipping in 14.5. Defensive end Jon McKinney has a pair of sacks to his credit this season, with Clayton Hazeltine and Jon Garcia both clutching onto just one, although both have results in losses of 15 of more yards.
THURSDAY Q&A WITH HEAD COACH PETE SHINNICK
Talk about the preparation this week and how
practice has fared.
It’s been one of our better weeks of practice, even though we lost some time due to weather. We had to fight some lightning on Tuesday and some rain on Wednesday but, I feel like it’s not where we want it to be just yet, but it’s better than it has been. We’re in good shape now going in. We’ll see how prepared we are come Saturday.
The defense through the first two games has
obviously given you the chance to win both. That has to please you
through two games.
I am very excited about the way our defense has performed. They have really only given up three points and they’ve stopped probably three or four other touchdown attempts in the red zone by creating turnovers or by stopping them on downs. If you throw the ball enough, you’re going to get some passing yardage, but nobody’s really run the ball on us. Wingate will test us in that they have a very running game.
Their offensive line is big and their running backs are very physical and can run as well. This will be our biggest test in stopping the run that we have had.
On paper, Wingate lost a lot of guys but, on film,
what kinds of things are you seeing?
They lost a lot of guys, but they are still very good. That comes from Joe (Reich) and his coaching staff being there seven years. They’ve got depth and they play in a very challenging league. Even though they did lose a lot of people, they are still as good as they always are. They are our biggest challenge so far.
We felt like Davidson was better than Brevard and it played out that way and we think Wingate is better than Davidson. We’ve got to play very well to make this work for us.
Your offensive line played well in that you racked
up more than 200 yards rushing, but they didn’t give up a
Our quarterbacks are playing well and they are playing smart, but our offensive line is playing well and staying on blocks a lot longer. They are giving our quarterbacks some time. We were able to get outside a little bit last week which helped our running game and helped our rushing average a little bit. It’s coming along. Every phase of us – offensively, defensively and special teams – is coming along.
Now we have a really good test. Wingate is a team that really crushed us last year. So, for us to have a chance this year, we have to be more physical, we have to be smarter and we have to take advantage of every opportunity that we get.
You were a player once at Colorado, so you know how
much a 57-14 loss to a team plays on your mind during game week
preparations the next season.
You are reminded of it constantly. That result is permanent and it doesn’t go away. When you look at our results from last year, there are a few scores that stick out to you. I know our guys, especially defensively, looked at the Davidson game and say ‘hey, that’s way too much’ and they cut that down considerably. Now, you look at Wingate and you go ‘that’s a lopsided deal.’ The fact that we even got 14 points – one (touchdown) came midway through their onslaught and the other came at the end.
Our guys know it, obviously, and they have reminded each other of it. Since it was posted a year ago, we’ve had to deal with that score. Now, we have to find out how mature we are and if we’ve gotten any better to be able to do something about it.