Oct. 23, 2010
FAYETTEVILLE, NC - Fayetteville State's special teams play was, well, special.
The Broncos blocked three punts in the first half and forced and recovered a fumble for a touchdown on their way to a convincing 59-6 victory over Livingstone on Homecoming on Saturday at Luther "Nick" Jeralds Stadium.
Two of the blocked punts led to points for Fayetteville State (3-5, 2-3) in the first quarter alone, with Austin Turner (Jr. San Diego, CA) converting one after booting a 22-yard field goal midway through the period. Then, after another blocked punt, quarterback Robert Benjamin connected with Jamere Pugh (So., Henderson, NC) for a 20-yard score with 1:55 remaining in the quarter, giving the Broncos a 10-0 lead. Those two scores were set up by blocks by Fayetteville State's John Hicks (Sr., Wilmington, NC) and Joshua Wilkins (So., Riveria Beach, FL), respectively.
In all, the Broncos blocked a whopping four Livingstone (0-9, 0-5) punts in the game. With 3:40 to go in the third quarter, Fayetteville State's Jamesen Kimbrough blocked the fourth punt of the game. Joel Kuvuna (Sr., Raleigh, NC) recovered the ball and rumbled 20 yards for the touchdown to make it 38-6.
"That's what you look for in your special teams," said Fayetteville State head coach Kenny Phillips
. "They have to do something special on Saturdays."
And, with it being Homecoming, everything is special.
"These Homecoming games are great, but with all the festivities going on during the week, you hope that your guys don't get caught up in all that stuff," said Phillips. "I told them all week that everything was not for them, but when 2 o'clock rolls around on Saturday, they become the main event."
There was no denying that. The Broncos delivered several body blows in the bout before dropping the Blue Bears with a series of knockout punches.
The Broncos' defense did its part, too, and gave the offense another short field early in the second quarter after Andre Lyles (Jr., Ahoskie, NC) made a leaping interception near the sideline to set the Broncos up on the Livingstone 15. The offensive line gave Benjamin all kinds of time, and Benjamin delivered, coolly throwing another scoring toss to Benjamin Washington (Sr., Baltimore, MD), who found the hole in the Bears' zone for a 17-0 Broncos' lead.
The Bears did respond - for a moment. Quarterback Levon Stanley hooked up with Omar McFadden for a 59-yard pass-and-catch for a touchdown - the longest play from scrimmage all season for the Blue Bears -- and the score was 17-6 with 10:40 left in the second quarter.
After that, it was all Broncos.
FSU answered that brief moment of trepidation with another huge special teams play. Late in the second quarter, Livingstone's Franklin Evans tried to make a play on a rolling punt deep in his own territory. Evans was hit as he touched the ball, which squirted free and into the end zone. There, CIAA leading tackler Jeremy Cunningham (Sr., Casa Grande, AZ) recovered the fumble for a touchdown and a 24-6 Broncos' lead with a2:53 to go in the half.
"Against St. Aug's, they scored 14 points off of our special teams mistakes," Phillips said. "That was the difference in that football game. You have to spend time and make sure you're covered there, because those things can swing a football game quicker than anything you can do offensively or defensively."
And it's not uncommon for the Broncos to make a big play in the special teams. The CIAA Special Teams Player of the Year the last two seasons have come from Fayetteville State (Richard Medlin
in 2008 and Turner in 2009), and the program has come to expect game-changing plays from that unit.
"It's just about making plays," said Kimbrough. "We work real hard on it at practice, and we take pride in our special teams."
Besides, it's fun blocking punts.
"Oh yeah, it's fun," said Kimbrough, "hitting the gap and getting through."
The Broncos kept rolling after halftime, scoring three touchdowns in a span of 2 ½ minutes in the third quarter. Medlin (Sr., Raleigh, NC) rushed 17 yards for a score with 4:40 to go in the period, which was followed by Kuvuna's touchdown run 60 seconds later. With 2:01 left, Colon Bailey Jr. (Fr. Manteo, NC) plunged 1 yard into the end zone for a 45-6 Broncos' lead.
Fayetteville State tacked on two more scores from there, getting a pretty 45-yard touchdown run from Pugh, who stepped in under center in the fourth quarter. Pugh raced to the right side and down the sideline, then reversed field back to the left for the remaining 25 yards to add to the highlights, and the Broncos took a 52-6 lead with 12:11 remaining in the game.
"That run showed just how talented he is," Phillips said of Pugh. "He's probably the fastest guy on the football team. He took the bootleg and tucked, and he was out the back door and was gone."
Fayetteville State became the sixth Livingstone opponent in 2010 to score 55 or more points when Michael Staton scored from 11 yards out with 9:31 left.
Benjamin finished with 11-of-19 passing for 91 yards and two touchdowns while rushing six times for 55 yards. Medlin had eight carries for 74 yards and Anthony Council (Fr., Goldsboro, NC) added 52 yards on six carries. Washington had four receptions for 44 yards and a score while Pugh finished with two catches for 27 yards and a touchdown.
Livingstone's Stanley was 8-for-17 for 93 yards and an interception and was sacked six times. McFadden had five receptions for 73 yards while Terrill Gourdine led the Blue Bears with 37 yards rushing on 11 carries.
For the game, Fayetteville State rolled up 377 yards of total offense, with 268 of it coming on the ground. The Broncos' defense held Livingstone to just 146 yards total, with only 28 yards of rushing.
Fayetteville State will host Johnson C. Smith next week at 1 p.m. on Saturday.