Eagles have to find a way to move ball
N.C. Central likely would have had more to say about the outcome of Saturday’s 35-17 loss to No. 4 Towson if the Eagles could have figured out a way to run the football.
The two rushing yards NCCU netted typically aren’t a winning recipe, especially against a team such as Towson with its sixth-ranked Football Championship Subdivision defense.
Against the run, Towson’s tacklers were ranked fifth nationally and hadn’t allowed a rushing touchdown all season, a statistic that still stands.
NCCU scored with a couple of passes and a field goal. In fact, Eagles quarterback Jordan Reid threw for a career-high 292 yards.
But the Eagles just couldn’t get anything going on the ground. Reid actually had the most carries for NCCU, 10 attempts for a yield of minus-29 yards. Running back Andre Clarke’s 17 yards on four carries was as good as it got for NCCU.
NCCU’s offense continued to struggle with extending drives on third downs (4 of 15), limiting the rest its defense could get as the game wore on.
The Eagles’ defenders had been flying around, particularly linebacker Tazmon Foster, whose 17 tackles were the most by an NCCU player in 10 years. That’s when Luis George was in on the same number of stops against Fayetteville State during the Eagles’ Division II days in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
Eight of Foster’s hits were solo shots, and he forced a fumble. The Henderson product was named defensive player of the week in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
NCCU’s defenders impacted the game with plays such as the first-quarter sack of Towson quarterback Peter Athens by linebacker Allonte Tuppins. It was the first time this season that Athens had been dropped in the backfield, and NCCU linebacker Ty Brown and nose guard Aaron Wallace also sacked him on separate plays.
Both Tuppins and Foster said they were eager to watch the game film to find out exactly what went wrong, although NCCU interim coach Dwayne Foster had a pretty good idea shortly after the contest ended.
“We’ve got to do a lot better execution-wise and finishing,” Coach Foster said. “We’ve got to execute better on both sides of the football.”
NCCU’s defense created turnovers that gave the offense extra opportunities.
“They got the ball back for us a couple of times, and we have to capitalize on that,” the coach said. “We just can’t falter once we get the ball back.”
Early in the fourth quarter, with Towson ahead 28-17, Brown knocked the football out of the hands of a Tigers receiver. NCCU strong safety Ryan Smith scooped the fumble and returned it to the Eagles’ 38, but Reid ended up throwing an interception three plays later.
With 6:38 left in the fourth quarter and Towson still holding that 28-17 lead, NCCU freshman cornerback Michael Jones picked off an Athens pass that gave the Eagles the ball on their 28.
NCCU’s offense lined up, but lineman Christopher Pressley jumped offside, creating a first-and-15 situation. The Eagles wound up losing the ball on downs when Reid missed on a fourth-and-1 pass to wide receiver DeMario Johnson.
Days before the game, Coach Foster talked about how penalties like that offside infraction can kill drives.