Oct. 14, 2011
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. - Even Kenny Phillips can't help but get a laugh out of it.
For the fifth straight game, his Fayetteville State Broncos found themselves trailing by two touchdowns before the end of the first quarter. But on Saturday, for the second straight week, the Broncos dominated the field of play the rest of the way, backing up a come-from-behind overtime win the week before with a fireworks-laden 49-21 dismantling of a Virginia State team that had positioned itself to make a run at the CIAA's Northern Division crown.
"We like to start out in the hole, I guess," quips Phillips, who can't help but allow his hearty deep laugh to surface. "It seems to be our forte to get down and then decide to play."
After dropping their first four games, the Broncos (2-4, 2-1) have won their last two games to keep themselves in a position to possibly step into the Southern Division race should No. 13 Winston-Salem State stumble. They play their third in a stretch of three homes games when they host division rival Shaw (1-5, 1-2) for Homecoming at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Luther "Nick" Jeralds Stadium.
"We like to start out in the hole, I guess. It seems to be our forte to get down and then decide to play."
FSU coach Kenny Phillips
"Each week you try to go out and try to establish things early, but we haven't been able to get out of the gate each week. I guess we'll see what happens this week," says Phillips. "We look at the film and we come out and do what we're supposed to do, and we look up and suddenly we're down 14 points. But it's something we'll continue to work on to try to ensure it doesn't happen again this week."
The Broncos don't want to leave anything to chance, especially with freshman Chauncey Concepcion (Charlotte, N.C.) installed as the starter at quarterback. While Concepcion is lauded for his athletic ability, Fayetteville State feels more comfortable using the passing game as a complementary part rather than the team's focus. The Broncos, who rushed for a season-high 248 yards as a team against Virginia State last week, getting three rushing touchdowns from Colon Bailey (So., Manteo, N.C.) and two defensive touchdowns to romp past the Trojans.
"The kids responded very well to adjustments we made on the sideline," Phillips says of the response to the sluggish start. "The biggest thing we had to do on offense was hold onto the football, and the great thing about it was we figured out we could run the football on (the Trojans). Then we didn't have to worry about throwing the football with a freshman quarterback."
Freshman Chris Hairston (Jacksonville, N.C.) led the Broncos with 84 rushing yards, including a 55-yard score, while Anthony Williams (Jr., Clayton, N.C.), Concepcion and Bailey each finished with 44 or more rushing yards.
"The guys are now understanding where we're trying to get the football and where we're trying to run the football," Phillips says. "All of our guys stepped up ad we ran the ball very well."
Still, it was an attacking Broncos' defense that was contributing most of the highlights. Fayetteville State, after forcing five turnovers in the comeback win over St. Augustine's, pressured the Trojans into six more, including a fumble that was recovered for a touchdown by Andre Lyles (Sr., Ahoskie, N.C.) and an interception return for a score by Marcos Esquivel (Sr., Kearney, Ariz.).
"The biggest change in our football team is that we're now forcing turnovers, where in the first four weeks, we weren't doing that," Phillips says. "That has helped us a bunch the last two football games. If we continue to attack the football on defense and these guys continue to make plays on defense, we've got a decent shot."
In comes a Shaw team, the defending CIAA champion that was picked by the league's coaches in the preseason to win the CIAA for the fourth time in the last five years. But the Bears opened the season 0-4, losing each game by seven points or less. Shaw drilled Livingstone 54-0 on Oct. 1 before falling 37-26 to Johnson C. Smith last week.
Despite the rough start, Phillips knows to be wary of coach Darrell Asberry's team.
"We're not much better record-wise - just one game - so you can't pinpoint anything," Phillips says. "It looks like they're going through the same growing pains we're going through."
With the Bears struggling to get their ground game going - leading rusher James Langord averages just 40.8 yards per game -- the Broncos realize that Shaw will try to do most of its damage through the air. The Bears rotate two quarterbacks, Homer Causey and Quinshon Odom, who come into the game with similar statistics.
"They're going to give you different formations and they're looking to get the ball vertically on you down the field," says Phillips. "You have to be on your Ps and Qs in coverage."
And the Broncos have to mind their emotions as well. It is Homecoming, after all, though, as Phillips likes to put it, it's not necessarily Homecoming for the current Broncos players.
"Homecoming is a whole different atmosphere because of all the activities going on, on campus," Phillips says. "Those are the things you worry about during the week. We stress it every day after practice that, `Homecoming is not for you. You haven't graduated from the university yet. It's for the alumni to come back for a week of festivities. Your Homecoming is after the football game on Saturday, and you're part of Homecoming. You have to do what you're supposed to do during the week so you can perform on Saturday.'"
As for perhaps playing their way into the Southern Division picture, Phillips says the team just isn't looking that far ahead.
"Our thing is to go out and play each week as a one-game season," he says. "Then, at the end of the football season, we'll see what happens. We had our chance against the team that leads our division, so we have to continue to play well and improve as a team and then see what happens at the end of the season."
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