UNCP Releases 2011 Football Schedule
UNCP Releases 2011 Football Schedule
PEMBROKE – Six home games, including a Homecoming tilt against Tusculum and an early-November contest against Winston-Salem State, highlight the 10-game 2011 football schedule released by UNCP athletic department officials on Thursday afternoon.
The slate features 10 games against NCAA Division II foes, marking the first time since the program returned to the gridiron in 2007 that every game has been against Division II competition. Seven of the 10 squads on the 2011 schedule posted winning records, including four that turned in seven or more victories.
"We are very excited about having six home games," said UNCP head coach Pete Shinnick. "Our fans do a great job of supporting us and those six opportunities that we have to play in front of our home crowd are going to be a lot of fun. I don't think the overall strength of schedule will be questioned. We have our work cut out for us because there are some great opponents on the schedule, but we are looking forward to the challenge."
The Braves, who are coming off a 5-5 campaign and are two years removed from a playoff appearance, will begin the next campaign at Fayetteville State's Luther "Nick" Jeralds Stadium where they will battle the Broncos in the third annual Two Rivers Classic. FSU is coming off a 5-5 season, including a 39-0 loss to the Braves in the 2010 season opener in Pembroke. The Broncos booked the nation's ninth-best turnover margin (+1.30/game) last season behind the efforts of defensive back Andre Lyles who finished in a tie for eighth nationally with six interceptions. UNCP is a perfect 2-0 all-time against Fayetteville State, including a 41-34 double overtime win in the last Fayetteville meeting in 2009.
UNCP will open up a three-game home stand the following week when it welcomes Chowan to Grace P. Johnson Stadium for a 6 p.m. kickoff – the only home night game scheduled during the 2011 season. The Hawks registered a 3-7 clip in 2010, including consecutive victories over Virginia State, Virginia Union and Lincoln (Pa.). Chowan returns special teamer Tony Goodman who ranked 12th nationally in punt returns (14.96 avg.). UNCP registered a 26-20 victory in Murfreesboro during the inaugural 2007 campaign in the only previous meeting between the two squads.
The home appearances will continue on September 17 when the Black and Gold welcomes region foe Wingate to Pembroke for a 2 p.m. kickoff. The Bulldogs posted a 9-3 record last season and advanced through to the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs before bowing out to top-seeded Albany State in the regional finals. The Bulldogs parted ways with 1,200-yard rusher Nelson Woods, but do return quarterback Cody Haffly who ranked eighth nationally in passing efficiency (160.39), and was listed 12th nationally with 320.0 yards of total offense per game. Wingate is 3-1 all-time against the Braves, but UNCP took the last meeting in Pembroke – a 24-13 comeback triumph on Sept. 12, 2009.
The Braves will close out their longest home stand of the season the following week (Sept. 24) when they battle Glenville State in a mid-afternoon bout. The Pioneers are coming off a 5-6 season in which they posted a 4-4 record in West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC) – good enough for sixth place in that league. Running back Joe Mesidue (96 rushes, 618 yards) returns next season, as does wide receiver Jordan Griffin who led the team with 55 receptions for 729 yards. The Braves scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to take last year's initial series meeting in Glenville by a 28-14 score.
The Black and Gold will play the second of four road games on October 1 when it travels to Salisbury to lock horns with Catawba. Toting the nation's 31st-ranked passing offense, the Indians registered a 6-4 clip last season, including road victories against Wingate, Newberry and Mars Hill. The Indians return sophomore special teamer L.J. McCray who led the nation last season with a 32.5 yard average on 20 kick returns, two of which resulted in touchdowns. The week five meeting will mark the first-ever matchup between the football squads at each respective institution.
The Braves will return home again the following week (Oct. 8) for a Homecoming tilt against Tusculum – the third of five South Atlantic Conference teams that appear on the 2011 schedule. Behind the arm of sophomore quarterback Bo Cordell, the Pioneers boasted the nation's No. 1-ranked passing attack (424.82 passing yards/game) in 2010 and will return three of their top four receivers as well next year. Tusculum turned in a 6-5 record in 2010, but all five setbacks came by seven points or less. Tusculum and UNCP have never met on the gridiron.
Following an open week on October 15, UNCP will open up a short two-game road trip the following week (Oct. 22) when it makes the trek to Jefferson City, Tenn., to face Carson-Newman. The Eagles rode the nation's second-best rushing attack (311.18 rushing yards/game) to a 7-4 record in 2010 and return two of their top three rushers from that squad, including Nate Inman who ran for 1,057 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Braves and Carson-Newman have split each of the two previous meetings in their series, with the home teams proving victorious in each contest.
A contest at Newberry will mark the end of the 2011 road schedule for the Braves on October 29. The Wolves posted a 4-6 campaign in 2010, but toted the nation's 20th-best passing offense (279.8 passing yards/game), as well as NCAA Division II's 23rd-ranked scoring offense (34.8 points/game). The Wolves parted ways with 21 seniors from last season's squad, but will welcome back running back Lyndon Ingram who rushed for better than 60 yards per game, including 100-yard outings against both Catawba and Brevard. The week nine meeting will mark the first matchup in the series between the Braves and Newberry.
UNCP will open up a regular season-ending two game home stand on November 5 against Winston-Salem State in Grace P. Johnson Stadium. The Rams are coming off an 8-2 season in which they barely missed a trip to the NCAA Division II playoffs. Quarterback Kameron Smith will return for his senior season after ranking 12th nationally in passing efficiency (158.71), while WSSU will also return running back Nicholas Cooper who rushed for 1,134 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior last season. The Rams scored 14 points off three UNCP turnovers to register a 21-7 win over the Braves in the initial series meeting in Winston-Salem on Oct. 23, 2010.
The Braves will close out their 2011 regular season campaign at home on November 12 by welcoming West Liberty to Pembroke for a 1 p.m. kickoff. The Hilltoppers are fresh from a 7-3 campaign in which they led the country in total offense (543.8 yards/game) and scoring offense (46.0 points/game), but did graduate quarterback Zach Amedro who finished runner-up for the Harlon Hill Trophy after also passing for more than 405 yards per game. Despite losing Ryan Travis, who led the country in both receptions per game (12.6) and receiving yards per game (140.2), West Liberty will welcome back wide receiver David Jermaine Carter who finished second on the team in both categories (7.1 receptions/game, 87.4 yards/game).