Sept. 8, 2010
By ALEX PODLOGAR
FAYETTEVILLE, NC - Ask any college student about the week of final exams. They know all about cramming for a test.
The Fayetteville State Broncos won't be graded this season solely on their performance in a 39-0 season-opening loss to UNC Pembroke last week. But at the very least, they got a crash course in the subject that is college football.
And that is what 2009 CIAA Coach of the Year Kenny Phillips is making quite evident to the Broncos.
"The biggest thing is a lot of our young players who had not played in a college football game found out what it takes to win a college football game (last) Saturday night," Phillips said during his weekly news conference, the Pigskin Press Talk, on Wednesday afternoon at Felton J. Capel Arena. "They got some valuable experience against a very good football team.
"With that being said, we've basically been working on the fundamental things that we did not do well on Saturday night, which was a lot."
The next test, now, is looming.
And so correcting some of those mistakes has been the focus this week at practice as the Broncos prepare for their home opener against Bowie State at 6 p.m. on Saturday at Luther "Nick" Jeralds Stadium. The game is a rematch of the 2009 CIAA Championship, which Fayetteville State won 27-10. The Broncos (0-1) won both meetings in competitive games against the Bulldogs (0-2) a year ago.
"We've been working on the things we did wrong in the football game on Saturday night and working on eliminating the mental mistakes that we had," Phillips said.
"We've got to get our minds right and move forward," said linebacker Jeremy Cunningham (Sr., Casa Grande, AZ), who led FSU with 13 tackles against UNC Pembroke.
Fine-tuning their execution will be a critical component in the Broncos' potential improvement this week. The Bulldogs may have lost two games while switching from the power running game of a year ago to a spread offensive formation this season, but their defense has been typically stout, allowing a combined 34 points in those two games, against Seton Hill and Morgan State.
"They were in the top 5 in three or four defensive categories last year," Phillips said of Bowie State. "We know what we're facing this week.
"The backbone of their team is their defense. That's what carried them a year ago, and I anticipate that's what Coach (Damon Wilson) is working on this year."
Bowie State has been led by running back Ramono Flowers, who is averaging 4.1 yards per carry this season on just 18 attempts. Tyrae Reid Jr. will likely start at quarterback, and is completing 68 percent of his passes in throwing for 187 yards and one score thus far this season. Clifton Budd has been the Bulldogs' top receiving threat after accumulating nine receptions for 96 yards in two games this season.
The Broncos will also be looking for some offensive success. The team amassed just 81 total yards last week and gave up seven sacks in a game started by reserve quarterback Andreas Hudson (Jr., Philadelphia, PA), who took over under center after starter Robert Benjamin was not cleared to play pending certification by the NCAA. It was unclear Wednesday which quarterback would start on Saturday, but Phillips is confident that Hudson, who was 16-for-25 for 103 yards and no interceptions against Pembroke, will perform better after a week of practice with the first team offense.
"I thought (Hudson) played pretty well under the circumstances," Phillips said. "It's different when you change quarterbacks. It's not like substituting in and out at another position. It's a whole different thing when you're talking about timing and reps.
"I think he'll be a lot better this week because his timing will be a lot better."
But with better execution must come stronger effort as well, Phillips said.
"(Against Pembroke), that's the first time in a long time that a football team outplayed us for four quarters, and we've got to pick up the tempo this week in practice and get back to Bronco Football," said Phillips.
"We've got to get back to the way we play football here, and that's to get out there and outplay people for four quarters."