NCCU

NC Central football team looks to get first win of season this weekend against Towson

North Carolina Central got off to a rocky start, falling to Austin Peay 41-10 in the opening week.

First-year coach Trei Oliver did, however, like some things he saw on film from his team and believes with some adjustments the Eagles should have a better showing as they head to Maryland to take on Towson at 6 p.m. Saturday.

The Tigers are 1-0 are coming off a 28-21 road win over The Citadel.

Against the Governors, NCCU struggled to generate any offense, tallying just 192 total yards.

“We struggled running the football, and we struggled stopping the run, so we have to improve that on both sides of the football,” Oliver told the media at his weekly news conference.

The Tigers and Eagles have met twice before, with Towson holding a 2-0 series lead.

THE QUARTERBACK DEPTH CHART

With the sudden departure of junior Chauncey Caldwell, true freshman Davius Richard moves to No. 2 on the depth chart behind redshirt junior Micah Zanders.

The day after the Austin Peay game, Caldwell announced he was entering the transfer portal. Richard, a 6-3, 200-pounder from Belle Glade, Florida, will now backup Zanders.

“When we recruited him we told him he was going to have the opportunity to push for a starting position, if not playing time,” Oliver said. “Now his number is called, so it’s time for him to step in and go to work.”

When asked if Richard’s number was called sooner than expected, Oliver said no.

“He could have easily been a two or a one depending on how things shook up with the quarterback battle,” Oliver said. “Great athlete, very smart young man, I think he was a 4.0 (GPA) student coming out of high school, so him picking up the playbook is not going to be a problem, and he has all the athletic ability in the world.”

As a senior at Glades Central, Richard threw for 3,274 yards and 29 touchdowns.

Oliver said it would be up to offensive coordinator Moses Ware if Richard played this weekend. In the opener, Zanders completed 10 of 20 passes for 61 yards.

“If you can’t run the football you’re going to put a lot of pressure on your quarterback,” Oliver said. “If you want to help your quarterback out, you have to be able to run the football.”

DEFENSE UP TO THE CHALLENGE?

NCCU gave up 563 yards of offense to Austin Peay last week, and it won’t get any easier against Towson, which gained 461 yards in Week 1.

The Tigers have three preseason All-Americans on offense: wide receiver Shane Leatherbury (67 catches, 885 yards, seven TDs); running back Shane Simpson (171.5 all-purpose yards per game in 2018); and quarterback Tom Flacco (270.9 passing yards per game).

The defense is the one unit Oliver said he expects to see step up in Week 2.

“I think we are pretty strong on defense, and it wasn’t physical, it was just run fits,” Oliver said. “Our defensive coordinator and those guys over there, they will get it corrected. I think our run fits and run defense will be better Week 2.”

The Eagles surrendered 291 yards on the ground to the Governors.

“They have an outstanding football team, and they are talented,” Oliver said. “I think they are much better than the team we saw last week.”

THE YOUNGER FLACCO

If the name Flacco sounds familiar to football fans, it’s because Tigers quarterback Tom is the younger brother of Denver Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco.

The younger Flacco passed for 328 yards and one touchdown last week. He has 3,579 yards and 29 passing touchdowns in 13 games as a starter. In 2018 he was named the CAA Offensive Player of the Year.

“I don’t know who is better, him or his brother,” Oliver said, jokingly. “I don’t know if it’s Joe or Tom we’re going to see, both of them are pretty good.”

Tom Flacco previously played at Rutgers and Western Michigan before transferring to Towson. Flacco was on the Western Michigan Broncos roster in 2016 when they defeated NCCU 70-21, attempting one pass in the win.

ROOKIES IN THE FIRE

Before the Austin Peay game, Oliver said they would play several freshmen in the opener. There are 37 true freshmen on the roster, and Oliver liked what he saw from several of them last week.

Freshman Shamar Baker intercepted a pass, and Oliver singled out walk-on freshman defensive lineman DaShaun Holloway.

“He (Holloway) came in and made some plays for us,” Oliver said.

Freshman Adrian Olivo also connected on a 24-yard field goal.

NCCU at Towson

Johnny United Stadium, 6 p.m.

Audio: NCCUEaglePride.com

Video: FloSports/Towson Sports Network

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Sports reporter Jonas Pope IV covers college recruiting, high school sports, NC Central and the ACC for the Herald-Sun and The News & Observer.
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