NCCU special teams getting job done, but others aren't

Oct. 22, 2013 @ 10:30 PM

N.C. Central’s special teams have given opposing teams fits.

Problem is, the other two phases of a football game have caused the Eagles to create headaches for themselves.

NCCU (3-4, 1-2 MEAC) will try to put it all together during Saturday’s homecoming game at Savannah State (2 p.m., NCCUEaglePride.com).

Morgan State soured NCCU’s homecoming game over the weekend, beating the Eagles 34-22.

“Turnovers and penalties plagued us,” NCCU interim coach Dwayne Foster said. “If you’re going to win football games, that can’t be done,”

The Bears recovered two NCCU fumbles and twice picked off quarterback Jordan Reid. Compounding the problem, NCCU was flagged for 115 yards worth of penalties.

The Eagles must understand how penalties negatively impact field position and disrupt what NCCU needs to do, which this week will require taming the Tigers who last week left a few claw marks on Bethune-Cookman.

Bethune-Cookman is one of the nation’s best Football Championship Subdivision programs. The Wildcats beat Savannah State 48-21 Saturday although the Tigers (1-7, 0-4 MEAC) were able to hold the defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion to six second-half points.

Bethune-Cookman scored touchdowns on its first four possessions against Savannah State. NCCU will be looking to borrow that page from the Wildcats’ playbook.

“We’ve got to start better,” Foster said.

Morgan State sprinted to a 21-0 first-quarter lead over NCCU.

“We got some early turnovers and put it in a different kind of game,” Morgan State coach Donald Hill-Eley said.

“We were playing in the hole,” Foster said. “We were playing from behind.”

The Eagles made some noise with strong plays on special teams. Oleg Parent hit a 41-yard field goal to make it a 21-10 game in the second quarter, and Adrian Wilkins returned a fourth-quarter kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown.

“They’re outstanding on special teams,” first-year Savannah State coach Earnest Wilson said. “They come at you, and they have a great returner. I remember him from last year. They’ve got a little small fry that can get it done.”

Wilkins, from Forest City, leads the MEAC with an average of 124.6 all-purpose yards per game. He’s the only MEAC player averaging more than 100 all-purpose yards a game. Wilkins also leads the league in return yards on kickoffs with an average of 29.3 yards.

In September, Wilkins had a 100-yard kickoff return against Charlotte. Two games later at Howard, he returned a punt 89 yards for a touchdown.

But football is a game of three phases.

NCCU has been consistent in only one of them.