What lessons did NC Central learn in a lopsided defeat? Here’s what the Eagles had to say.

Duke running back Shaun Wilson, middle, stiff-arms NC Central defensive back Alden McClellon, right, on Saturday. Duke won 60-7.
Duke running back Shaun Wilson, middle, stiff-arms NC Central defensive back Alden McClellon, right, on Saturday. Duke won 60-7. Getty Images

What did we learn? One would think there aren’t many lessons, positive ones at least, to take from a 53-point drubbing.

N.C. Central left Brooks Field on the wrong side of a 60-7 contest against Duke in the Bull City Classic. The Blue Devils (1-0) scored early and often in a variety of ways. They rushed for scores, found the end zone through the air and even struck pay dirt on a 28-yard interception return.

The Eagles’ defense, the strength of the team, surrendered 524 yards of total offense and 30 first downs. Central’s offense, which had to replace its starting quarterback and four offensive linemen, looked out of sync at times, and only mustered 158 yards of total offense. But there were some bright spots on both sides of the ball.

One of them: Redshirt freshman running back Isaiah Totten. Totten rushed for 85 yards and the Eagles’ only score in his college debut. This might have caught those outside the program off guard, but not head coach Jerry Mack, who has been singing Totten’s praises since the start of camp.

“The biggest positive I took was Isaiah Totten,” Mack said. “You saw exactly what we’ve been seeing for the last few months from him. I was really pleased about that.”

Totten finished with 181 all-purpose yards.

By the time Totten scored, the Eagles were still down 33. It’s easier said than done to tell the kids to keep battling and not look at the score, but Mack’s team did just that.

“Those guys competed for four quarters,” Mack said. “They continued to try to fight, push the ball down the field and create some turnovers and make explosive plays. No matter what the score was those guys continued to fight.”

While he might look at the film and not take away a lot of positives with the X’s and O’s, Mack called this a character game for his team. With so many new faces in the lineup, the fourth-year coach wanted to see who would hang tough when things got bad. Duke jumped on N.C. Central early, going up 40-0 before the Eagles got on the board. When Mack looked at his team, he wanted to see who would keep battling, who would hang tough when things weren’t going their way.

“You grow character-wise in a game like this,” Mack said. “Guys’ character gets exposed. You’ll see who is going to fight and who is going to tuck their tails. I would say 95 percent of those guys continued to fight.”

Quitting, sophomore quarterback Micah Zanders said, wasn’t an option. Zanders, who finished with 91 yards passing, threw a pick-six in the first quarter, but that didn’t stop him from battling. That goes back to what Mack was talking about – the character of this team.

“We competed,” Zanders said. “That’s what I like to see. Nobody gave up. That’s a good thing to do. We learned as a team that we can play. We kind of woke up and saw we can compete with these guys. Once we got our feet wet we did a lot of good things on offense.”

The Eagles host Division II Shaw next week. Last year they fell to 0-2 on the season before picking up win No. 1 against a CIAA opponent. They then won eight in a row and a fourth consecutive league title.

Senior linebacker Reggie Hunter, who led the team with 10 tackles, said the Eagles will quickly put this one behind them and hopefully start another streak starting next week.

“We don’t lose from here,” Hunter proclaimed. “I feel like the team we have right now, we have heart, and we will go a long way with that.”

Jonas Pope IV: 919-419-7001, @JEPopeIV