Oct. 7, 2011
A win in a critical conference game to keep title hopes alive.
Sound familiar? No doubt, the above describes Fayetteville State's emotional 31-28 victory in overtime over St. Augustine's. While it was the Broncos' first victory of the season, it was also their first CIAA win, allowing Fayetteville State to remain in the running in the Southern Division behind unbeaten Winston-Salem State.
But it also describes Virginia State's thrilling come-from-behind victory against league foe Bowie State on the same day. The Trojans were down 21-14 before quarterback Jarred Battle connected with Timothy Paulk for a 21-yard touchdown with 16 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime. After Battle scored on a sneak from 2 yards out to give the Trojans a 28-21 lead, the Virginia State defense stoned the Bulldogs on fourth-and-goal, sealing the victory.
With the victory, the Trojans (3-2, 2-1) moved into a tie for first place in the CIAA Northern Division with rival Virginia Union.
Now the two teams meet at Luther "Nick" Jeralds Stadium at 1 p.m. on Saturday in a game televised by Urban Sports and Entertainment. And both need another league win to keep pace in their respective standings.
"It was a great win for us, especially with trying to stay in the race for the conference championship," says Fayetteville State head coach Kenny Phillips. "I know a lot of people may think we're out of it, but we're not out of it until the end of the football season. We had to get that win on Saturday night, and we need another one to stay close to Winston-Salem State."
"I know a lot of people may think we're out of it, but we're not out of it until the end of the football season. We had to get that win on Saturday night, and we need another one to stay close to Winston-Salem State."
FSU coach Kenny Phillips
"(The Trojans) won a big football game in overtime, and they're in a situation where they're trying to stay ahead of their side in the conference, and we've got to continue to improve and not mistakes against a quality and hungry football team like that," says Phillips.
While cleaning up the mistakes is certainly the most immediate and pressing need, the Broncos (1-4, 1-1) will need their defense to play every bit as well as it did against St. Augustine's. Fayetteville State allowed a season-low 194 yards of total offense and came up with six sacks, including 1.5 sacks by star linebacker Marcos Esquivel (Sr., Kearney, Ariz.) On one of his sacks, Esquivel also stripped quarterback Teddy Bactoe, leading to a 37-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by emerging freshman linebacker Steven Moore (Chapel Hill, N.C.).
"He brings a lot of energy to the game," Phillips says of Esquivel, who already has 19 tackles and three tackles for loss in just two starts. "He uplifts everybody else around him when he's on the field. He sacks the quarterback, strips the quarterback and we scoop and score. That's what we've been looking for. I think his play elevates the play of all those around him; they want to play to his level."
They'll have to, with the efficient Battle under center for the Trojans. Battle has just three touchdown passes this season, but has passed for nearly 1,000 yards while completing nearly 55 percent of his passes. Five different receivers have at least 12 or more receptions for the Trojans, with Paulk averaging 18.9 yards per catch.
Meanwhile, Fayetteville State will likely continue to play two quarterbacks, with Brandon Blumears-Cluff (Jr., Phoenix, Ariz.) sharing time with freshman Chauncey Concepcion (Charlotte, N.C.), who despite three interceptions last week, effectively moved the Broncos up and down the field. Phillips expects both to play, and that both can be effective in leading the Broncos.
"The plan is to play him," Phillips says of Concepcion, who passed for 160 yards in the win last week. "He's still a freshman, and you got to hope and pray sometimes when he's scrambling around, but he's doing a great job for us. He has a lot of athletic ability and he has great confidence. He doesn't get down when he throws a pick and he doesn't let it bother him. That in a young quarterback, that says a lot. He doesn't beat himself up. He's ready to go to the next play.
"As for Cluff, we've just got to settle him down. He's a guy we aren't going to put on the back-burner and forget about. He's a very talented football player and we've got to find a way to get his energy level down - we don't want to bring it down too much - but to get it to a level where he sits in the pocket and throws the football."
The game will be televised on Saturday, and fans are encouraged to check with their cable and satellite TV providers for broadcast times of the game. Phillips says he doesn't expect the Broncos to be affected by the bright lights, but is excited about the opportunity the televised game gives the program and the University.
"It's just another football game," Phillips says. "We've got to line up and play whether we're on or off the TV. But I think it'll be great for the football team and great for the University to get some exposure on TV. Anytime you can get some publicity for your football team and the University, you're always looking forward to that."
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