Nov. 7, 2013
FAYETTEVILLE, NC -- There isn't much that needs to be said to "sell" Fayetteville State's final regular-season game of the season.
This is it. It is, quite literally, a win-or-go-home situation. If the Broncos (6-3 overall, 5-1 CIAA) knock off Winston-Salem State (8-1, 6-0) on the road on Saturday, it is FSU which is going to the CIAA championship game against Virginia State next week. If FSU falls, its season is over.
The task is quite daunting, to be sure. In order to prevail, the Broncos must knock off last year's national runner-ups. But FSU coach Lawrence Kershaw believes, at this point of the season, history is meaningless.
The Last Meeting
November 3, 2012
BRONCOS FALL TO NO. 2 WINSTON-SALEM STATE 41-8 IN SEASON FINALE
FAYETTEVILLE, NC - Fayetteville State running back Colon Bailey, Jr. (Jr., Manteo, NC) eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing barrier for the first time in his career on Saturday afternoon, but the Broncos suffered a 41-8 defeat to the second-ranked Winston-Salem State Rams in their season finale at Luther "Nick" Jeralds Stadium.
"None of that matters," Kershaw said. "Only thing that matters is they're 6-0 this year, we're 5-1 this year. If we go down there and win that game, we go to the CIAA Championship. All that history, all that stuff, it doesn't matter."
Changing recent history has been a goal of Kershaw's. Thus far, it's working. Last season's two-win team seems like a distant memory. Part of that goes to the fact that, despite any struggles of the past, the expectations were not diminished.
"We don't get up at 4, 4:30 in the morning. The players don't get up at 5 o'clock in the morning and we're not at meetings at six o'clock in the morning; we're not out on that practice field at 8:30 in the morning, we're not lifting weights early in the morning to not have expectations," Kershaw said. "Our expectations are to be in the conference championship game and win the conference championship. That's what our expectations are. That's why we work so hard to achieve that.
"We told the guys, `At the end of the day, you don't get a chance to build a program for four or five years.'"
After early-season struggles and an 0-2 start, the Broncos have corrected mistakes and won six of its seven games since.
Topping the Rams could come down to limiting two top playmakers. There may not a better player in the conference this year than WSSU's sensational quarterback, Rudy Johnson. Nobody's completed a greater percentage of passes (62.8 percent) or thrown as many touchdown passes (21) in the CIAA. And nobody's had much luck getting him to make mistakes. He's thrown just four interceptions.
Offensively, the Broncos will have to account for defensive lineman Donnie Owens. Owens ranks third in the conference with eight quarterback sacks. He has five alone in the last four games.
Winston-Salem State hasn't lost a conference game in three seasons. To change that, FSU figures to need big-time production from quarterback Derek Bryant. Bryant completed 17 of 35 passes for 280 yards and a touchdown in last week's win against Livingstone. Also factoring in will be senior wide receiver Dwayne Lorick, who caught five passes for 105 yards last week. In his last three games, Lorick has hauled in 16 passes for 317 yards and three touchdowns.
"He's been playing great," Kershaw said. "He had to (initially) learn his way. ... He's been dominant."
At Wednesday's press conference, Kershaw praised his team's comeback win against Livingstone.
"We showed the will, the heart and the desire not to lose," Kershaw said.
Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem.