Oct. 29, 2011
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- For a moment, the improving Fayetteville State Broncos defense appeared to take a step back.
Then Joshua Scales took two steps forward.
And the rest of the Broncos followed.
Scales had two interceptions to pace a brilliant team defensive effort as the Broncos won for the fourth time in their last five games, romping past Johnson C. Smith 44-23 to keep their Pioneer Bowl hopes alive on Saturday at the Irwin Belk Complex.
Only seconds after scoring early in the first quarter to take a 7-0 lead, the Fayetteville State Broncos (4-5, 4-2) gave the points right back, allowing Johnson C. Smith's Matthew Jeffries to scamper 60 yards for a tying touchdown after a screen pass. With botched tackling on the play, the Fayetteville State defense seemed to revert back to the unit that had such problems slowing teams down in the first half of the season.
After that, though, it was lights out.
Scales (So., Pinehurst, N.C.) had a touchdown-saving tackle on one play, then actually did save the Broncos from serving up another score with the second of his two interceptions to turn the Golden Bulls (4-5, 3-3) away late in the second quarter, preserving Fayetteville State's 10-7 lead.
And even after the Broncos' offense, which managed just 17 yards against a stout Johnson C. Smith defensive unit in the second quarter, made their own mistakes by giving up a safety after a high snap and failing to get out of the shadow of its end zone in the waning minute of the first half, the defense came up large.
With just 9 seconds remaining before the break, a high snap doomed banged-up freshman quarterback Keahn Wallace and the Golden Bulls on yet another prime scoring opportunity. But rather than falling on the tumbling ball, Broncos freshman Kwamere Bailey (Manteo, N.C.) scooped it up and raced 70 yards for the touchdown, giving Fayetteville State a 17-9 lead at the half.
With the defense showing the way, the offense followed with a huge second half.
Freshman quarterback Chauncey Concepcion, in his return to his hometown Charlotte, backed up his CIAA Rookie of the Week performance last week against Livingstone with another sturdy effort against the Golden Bulls, completing 8 of 12 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns to go with 45 yards rushing.
But Concepcion, even outside of his defense, had a lot of help.
Colon Bailey (So., Manteo, N.C.) matched his career-high with three touchdowns against the Golden Bulls, scoring all three in the second half to go with a game-high 135 yards on 27 rushes. Jamere Pugh (Jr., Henderson, N.C.), proving dangerous again in the return game, added two receptions for 66 yards and a score.
The Broncos, who took over sole possession of second place in the CIAA's Southern Division, really took off after the break, getting a 54-yard kickoff return by Pugh to begin the second half, setting the Broncos up at the Johnson C. Smith 36. A few players later, Bailey scored his first touchdown of the day on a 1-yard run, giving Fayetteville State a 23-9 lead. The point-after try was blocked, and for a moment it appeared as though the Golden Bulls may score two points on the return. But -- who else? -- Scales made the conversion-saving tackle to preserve the lead.
After leaving the game for moments in the first half, Wallace returned to start the second half. But the CIAA leader in total offense could do little against the Broncos' defense. The Golden Bulls went three-and-out on their first possession, then Scales -- of course -- returned the punt 34 yards to the Johnson C. Smith 29.
Three plays later -- all rushes by Bailey -- the burly back scored his second touchdown of the game on a 10-yard run to give Fayetteville State a 30-9 lead midway through the third period.
The Golden Bulls briefly got back into the game when Lamarr Person raced 97 yards on a fumble recovery when it looked like the Broncos were going to score again. That made it 30-16 with 7:56 left in the third period, but it made little difference to Fayetteville State.
The Broncos continued to roll, as Pugh hauled in a 48-yard scoring toss from Concepcion for a 37-16 lead with 5:06 to go in the third quarter.
Johnson C. Smith tried to threaten again, moving deep into Broncos territory on the ensuing drive. But Fayetteville State's defense knocked Wallace from the game for good, and even though backup Andrew Alexander eventually led the Golden Bulls to a score, the Broncos responded again after a fake field goal by -- ahem -- Scales, setting up a 5-yard touchdown run by Bailey.
Wallace, who came into the game averaging 279.2 yards per game in total offense, finished just 8 of 17 for 124 yards with 25 yards rushing after being sacked three times.
Scales finished the game with six tackles, his two interceptions, two pass breakups and a forced fumble. Marcos Esquivel (Sr., Kearney, Ariz.) had a team-high 10 tackles, including a sack. Marcus Witherspoon (So., Greensboro, N.C.) had 1.5 sacks.
But the Golden Bulls came right back, tying the game less than 2 minutes later when Wallace and Jeffries shocked a Broncos defense that had twice sacked Wallace on the game's opening series.
Fayetteville State answered that quick strike with its only extended drive of the first half, as Concepcion marched the Broncos to the Johnson C. Smith 23. The drive, though, beset by the same kinds penalties that slowed the Broncos' pursuit a week ago against Livingstone, stalled there. But Austin Turner (Sr., San Diego, Calif.) booted a 40-yard field goal to give Fayetteville State a 10-7 lead with 3:35 remaining in the first quarter.
There was little offense after that, though Smith was able to move the ball despite Wallace going in and out of the game with an apparent arm injury. Still, the Golden Bulls found a couple of holes in the Broncos' defense for a little while, with Alexander hitting William Trimble for 54 yards, a play that was stopped at the 8 by Scales' touchdown-saving tackle.
A couple of plays later, Scales picked off Alexander in the back of the end zone, his fifth interception of the season, a team-high.
The Broncos weren't able to go forward though, and after a high snap bounded over Concepcion's head, the freshman quarterback made the smart move, knocking the ball out of the end zone for the safety, bringing Johnson C. Smith within a point, 10-9, with 3:23 to go in the half.
A short free kick allowed the Golden Bulls to move to the Broncos' 1 until Kwamere Bailey's heroics turned the tables heading into halftime.
Fayetteville State travels to play Virginia Union in Richmond, Va., in the regular season finale next week.
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