NCCU to use bye week R&R to heal battered ground attack
N.C. Central’s up-and-down running game might stop limping along when some of the core players responsible for making it move get healthy.
“We have to put up more points,” NCCU interim coach Dwayne Foster said. “If we move the ball and score, put up points, it changes the game.”
NCCU has been passing the ball well enough, but its running game has not been reliable.
The Eagles rushed for a mere two yards in a 35-17 loss to Towson on Saturday. A week prior to that in a 40-13 win over Charlotte, the Eagles ran for 207 yards.
“The week before, we’re rushing for 200 yards, and we come back here and we don’t do anything,” Foster said. “We have to be consistent in what we do and just find ways throughout the game to move the ball on the ground.”
Injured Eagles offensive linemen this season have necessitated some shuffling up front, cutting in on the cohesion generally required to create good running lanes, Foster said.
As it turned out, the Eagles’ backfield during the Towson game was gimpy, too.
“We lost two running backs in that game alone,” Foster said. “We were technically down to our final two guys.”
NCCU running backs Idreis Augustus and Shaheed Swinson suffered lower-leg injuries. Neither was very productive against Towson, with Swinson picking up 9 yards on a couple of carries while Augustus ran the ball five times for 2 yards.
NCCU running back Deyonta Wright, listed as the starter against Towson, had a leg injury and didn’t play.
Underscoring the problems with NCCU’s running game against Towson were the team-high 10 carries by quarterback Jordan Reid. Reid’s legs are weapons yet only a couple of his runs were by design, Foster said. The Tigers’ harassment had Reid scurrying for cover. Reid ran a lot but was sacked six times and ended up with minus-29 yards on the ground
NCCU’s offensive linemen have work to do, not only figuring out a consistent way to create holes for their running backs but also keeping Reid upright, Foster said.
Redshirt-senior left tackle Charles Goodwin (6-6, 305), responsible for protecting Reid’s blind side, left the Towson game with a leg injury with 11:35 left in the second quarter. Goodwin is NCCU’s most experienced offensive lineman.
“It does hurt when he’s not in the football game,” Foster said.
Goodwin returned to the Towson game, and Foster is expecting both him and NCCU’s injured running backs to be good to go when the Eagles (2-2) start their Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference schedule in Washington, D.C., against Howard (1-2) on Oct 5.
NCCU doesn’t have a game this weekend, which is good medicine, Foster said.
“This bye week here couldn’t come at a better time,” Foster said. “We’ve got to get healed.”
Injuries caught up with NCCU toward the end of last season. Goodwin was among the players who believed those wounds cut in on the Eagles’ run at the 2012 MEAC title that Bethune-Cookman wound up winning. A good number of those injuries occurred during the game against Bethune-Cookman in Daytona Beach, Fla.
NCCU’s current injury situation isn’t particularly grave, more like big boo-boos that just need a little time to get better, Foster said.
“We’ve got some bumps and bruises here and there. Nothing major,” Foster said. “In the course of a season, you’re going to have injuries in football.”
NCCU redshirt-senior Tommy Wallace (6-1, 260) was expected to be a force on the defensive line but has not played after hurting his foot in the preseason.
“When you’re playing this game, you’re going to have some bumps and bruises, no doubt about that. You have to work through that and maximize your ability,” Foster said.
NCCU linebacker Allonte Tuppins said the Eagles would take advantage of the bye.
“We’re just going to attack these two weeks and get ready to attack the MEAC,” Tuppins said.