NCCU needs 3-0 finish to reach goal of winning season

Nov. 08, 2013 @ 04:21 PM

Hampton started the season with five straight losses before winning three in a row and then last week falling to Morgan State.

N.C. Central will be trying to make it two consecutive losses for the Pirates when the teams meet at Hampton’s Armstrong Stadium today (1 p.m., NCCUEaglePride.com).

NCCU (4-5, 2-3 MEAC) should be particularly motivated this afternoon. A loss to the Pirates (3-6, 3-2 MEAC) means the Eagles’ hope for a winning season goes down the drain just like their dream of a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship.

NCCU has been plagued by an inconsistent running game and slow starts. The Eagles have been outscored 69-19 in the first quarter this season. NCCU is 3-0 when it has scored in the first quarter.

The Eagles’ special teams, however, have been stellar and reliable. NCCU is the only team in the Football Championship Subdivision this season that has scored three touchdowns on kickoff returns. NCCU senior Thomas Dixon has one and the other two belong to sophomore Adrian Wilkins.

Wilkins leads the MEAC in all-purpose yards with 139.1 per game. Along with the two scores on kickoff returns, Wilkins has taken two punts to the end zone and scored on two pass receptions. He is the only FCS player this season to have returned four kicks for touchdowns.

Hampton coach Donovan Rose said his game preparation for the Eagles would include spending extra time and attention getting ready for NCCU’s special teams.

“Stay in your lanes and know where they are,” Rose said about his approach to slowing down NCCU’s special teams. “And a lot of times, it’s knowing where they’re not. So you just kind of pick your poison.

“We’ve got to make sure we play four quarters.”

NCCU interim coach Dwayne Foster has been preaching the same thing all season. The Eagles didn’t bring it the way they needed to in a 38-14 lost to nationally ranked Bethune-Cookman last week.

“Played well in spots. We didn’t play for 60 minutes,” Foster said. “So it’s going to be important for us to put that together. When we put that together, again, we are a pretty good football team.”

It’s a three-game season for NCCU, a team that will endeavor to go 3-0 for the remaining weeks for a shot at a winning record.

“We just want to really see if we can put it together for a stretch here in these final three,” Foster said.