.500 Eagles look to fly on wings of bye as MEAC play looms
Football weather is gradually settling in and this week’s flip of the calendar signaled the start of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference season for N.C. Central.
“October is upon us,” NCCU interim coach Dwayne Foster said. “We’ve talked about October being upon us.”
NCCU is coming off a bye week that it used to heal bodies with the Eagles playing .500 ball as league play dawns.
First up on the conference docket for 2-2 NCCU is a road trip to Howard on Saturday (1 p.m., NCCUEaglePride.com).
Don’t be fooled by the Bison’s 1-3 record, Foster said.
“Howard is a formidable opponent, and we have to go into that game prepared in order to have some success,” Foster said. “Defensively, they’re stout.
“They’re going to be in the right place at the right time. They’re going to come up and tackle.”
NCCU either will need to break those tackles or get the Bison blocked, Foster said. The Eagles must also figure out a way to run the football, he said.
The Eagles are averaging an unreliable 117.8 yards per game. NCCU’s ball carriers ran for 207 yards during a Week 3 win at Charlotte but seven days later at home strained for a mere 2 yards in a loss to Towson.
NCCU fullback Gabe Smith said he takes it personally when his blocking doesn’t yield solid yardage for the other Eagle running backs.
Part of the problem with the Eagle running game has been injuries along the offensive line, NCCU running backs coach Roy Jones said. Substitutions came with a breakdown in cohesion that’s required up front, he said.
NCCU’s backs used the bye week to work on technique and absorb more of the playbook, Smith said.
All of the Eagles, in fact, worked on technique during the bye week, using the time to get back to fundamental football in preparation for eight straight weeks in the MEAC, Foster said.
Howard had its first MEAC battle last Thursday in a loss at N.C. A&T. Some of the Eagles, including Smith, went to Greensboro and got an up-close look at the Bison.
On defense, Howard exposes its hand, Smith said. The Bison, for example, won’t disguise their blitz schemes, he said. When those guys are at the line of scrimmage snorting, it means they’re coming to get NCCU quarterback Jordan Reid or otherwise disrupt what the Eagles want to do out of the backfield. So it’s a matter of NCCU’s personnel understanding their assignments and executing, Smith said.
And finishing, Foster said.
“We have to learn to finish, and that’s where we stand right now. We have to learn to finish,” Foster said.
NCCU showed what it could do by going toe to toe with Towson, which had a 14-10 halftime lead over the Eagles. Towson at the time was the No. 4 team in the Football Championship Subdivision and is now No. 2.
“I thought we played step for step with them at times,” Foster said.
NCCU wasn’t the same team in the second half against Towson and lost 35-17.
The Eagles didn’t finish, Foster said.