NCCU needs home win today to avoid losing season

Nov. 15, 2013 @ 03:39 PM

NCCU will look to make a passing grade today in its final home game of the season, knowing a loss will guarantee a losing season.

A win and the Eagles can still hope for a .500 finish.

NCCU’s coaches and players believed early on they had a legitimate shot at the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship that would have launched them into the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, but they kept hiccupping and so went that dream.

For NCCU to avoid a losing season, it cannot be on the wrong side of the scoreboard when Norfolk State leaves O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium today (2 p.m., NCCUEaglePride.com).

NCCU (4-6, 2-4 MEAC) is coming off a 29-21 loss at Hampton, while Norfolk State comes to Durham with the momentum from last week beating Bethune-Cookman, the defending MEAC champion.

Norfolk State (3-7, 3-3 MEAC) went to Bethune-Cookman place and got past the Wildcats 27-24 by holding the football for 37:48.

“We played a good, hard physical football game,” Norfolk State coach Pete Adrian said.

Despite NCCU’s struggles, Adrian is expecting a tough game against the Eagles.

“It’ll probably be a dogfight until the end,” Adrian said. “They’ve got probably the best return guy in our league, and he’s very, very dangerous.”

Adrian was talking about Adrian Wilkins, the only NCAA Division I football player to have returned three kickoffs for touchdowns this season. That statistic holds up on both the FCS and the stronger Football Bowl Subdivision levels.

NCCU’s Thomas Dixon has returned a kickoff for a touchdown, giving the Eagles four scores that way, which is more than any other college football team — at any level.

The specialty units for NCCU have been a spark, unlike the team’s inconsistent running game and its defense that is giving up 461.1 yards per game.

NCCU interim coach Dwayne Foster said the Eagles have not thrown in the towel on the season.

“Our guys are continuing to fight and bringing the energy to practice and to games,” Foster said. “It’s just a matter of putting some good football play consistently on the football field for 60 minutes. That continues to be our goal.

“The ball just hasn’t bounced our way as much as we would have liked.”

It’s about one-game seasons for NCCU, simply winning the next game, Foster said.

Overcoming Norfolk State will necessitate slowing down Spartans running back Rolandan Finch (5-10, 215), the No. 2 rusher in the MEAC at 94.8 yards per game.

NCCU has been struggling to stop the run despite having the top tackler in the league in Tazmon Foster, who averages 12.3 stops per game.

Dwayne Foster said he wasn’t altogether surprised that Norfolk State beat Bethune-Cookman. The parity in the MEAC takes away that shock factor.

“At any week, you can certainly be beat in this conference if you’re not bringing your A game,” he said.