Braves Hold Off Newberry, Stretch Win Streak To Four
NEWBERRY, S.C. – UNCP racked up more than 300 yards of offense in the first half to take a 20-7 lead into the intermission, and then held off a furious comeback attempt by Newberry in the second half to stretch its win streak out to four games with a 23-20 win over the Wolves on Saturday afternoon at Setzler Field.
Newcomer T.J. Johnson hauled in three catches for 105 yards and a first-quarter touchdown to give UNCP (7-2) a 100-yard receiver for the third-straight game, while Travis Daniels carried the ball 31 times for 169 yards to highlight the offensive attack for the Braves on the day. Quarterback Luke Charles threw for 255 yards and a pair of scores on 14-of-24 passing with an interception – his first pick-off thrown since an October 1 road game against Catawba (112 attempts).
John Gadson rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown on nine carries to lead Newberry (3-5) who also got 178 passing yards from Bryan Ehrlich. The Wolves, who rushed for nearly 500 yards last week against Tusculum, managed just 274 on Saturday.
Linebacker Fred Williams registered 14 tackles on the day to lead a quartet of Braves with double-digit tackle numbers. The defensive output by the Fayetteville native gives him a school-record 90 stops on the season with two regular season games remaining on the schedule.
"I am very, very excited for our guys," said UNCP head coach Pete Shinnick. "We went into a place that is not easy to win in and found a way to come out with the victory. We got a big defensive stop in the fourth quarter and our offense was able to hold onto the ball after that. It was a great win for us and we are fired up to be 7-2 with our last two games at home. We are looking forward to coming home and playing in front of our home crowd."
After forcing Newberry to go 3-and-out on the opening drive of the contest, UNCP went to work right away, driving 20 yards on four players before Charles found Johnson on a 65-yard touchdown pass just less than four minutes into the contest. Newberry answered with an 81-yard touchdown run by Gadson on the second play of the ensuing possession, but the Braves retook the lead four minutes later when Charles capped off a 2-play, 36-yard drive with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Joe Burnett.
Taylor Baskett would make good on two field goal attempts in the second quarter – a 24-yarder with 13:41 left and a 22-yarder with 3:26 left – to give the visitors a 20-7 lead heading into the locker rooms.
Baskett gave UNCP its final points on the day with another 24-yard field goal just less than three minutes into the third quarter that gave the Braves a comfortable 23-7 advantage, but Newberry used a 1-yard touchdown run by Ehrlich in the waning minutes of the third period to whittle into its deficit, and then cut the lead down to just a field goal with a 6-yard run by Dureal Elmore midway through the fourth quarter.
Saturday's win sets up a possible top-25 showdown for the Braves next week when ninth-ranked Winston-Salem State (9-0) rolls into Grace P. Johnson Stadium for a 2 p.m. kickoff. The contest will begin a regular season-ending two-game home stand for the Black & Gold who are on the cusp of a top-25 ranking (RV; 27th) in the latest poll by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA).