Fans say budding rivalry is good for football and excitement!
In the hours leading up to the 2nd Annual Two Rivers Classic on September 4, fans from UNCP and Fayetteville State University (FSU) discussed “the rivalry.”
Allison Soles, left, and Jasmine Robinson
There was great anticipation and considerable preparation as Pembroke hosted the Broncos in Grace P. Johnson Stadium. Without doubt, if big crowds are an indicator of a rivalry, this is a rivalry.
Forty-five minutes before the kick-off, Campus Police Chief McDuffie Cummings ’92 was feeling the 90-degree temperature and the heat of a record crowd of 6,429.
“This is a huge crowd, our biggest ever, but we’re ready,” Cummings said.
As the Spirit of the Carolinas Marching Band warmed up, they were feeling the heat of a growing rivalry too, said Color Guard members, Allison Soles of Whiteville, N.C., and Jasmine Robinson of Fayetteville, N.C.
“We were both there for the first (Two Rivers Classic) game, and yes, we are very nervous,” Robinson said.
“Last year was definitely the beginning of a new rivalry,” Soles said.
“This is not just a football rivalry; this is a band rivalry too,” Robinson added. “Our bands have different styles - they are a show band and we are a core band – but we both want to do our best.”
In the tailgating section, FSU was well represented, including a group from the Bronco Athletics Booster Club.
“We follow the team to all the away games, but this is special,” said James Cason, club president. “This one is big-time special.”
Richard Sumpter and Robert Pridgen, both FSU alums, had chicken, ribs and fish on the grill.
“We’re doing it big today,” Sumpter said. “We are hoping for a little sweet revenge, too.”
The Bronco Boosters offered some pre-game analysis that proved prophetic.
“You’ve got a good team that is loaded with seniors, and you have a real good quarterback,” Cason said.
Richard Sumpter and Robert Pridgen
Bronco fans said the hospitality off the field was outstanding.
“Oh yes, they are treating us right!” said Robert Moulden, a 1967 FSU graduate.
Braves fans were excited and cooking, too. David Lewis ’81, Jeff Moody ’79 and Julius Meekins ’82 have tailgated at just about every home game. They agreed that rivalry is good for football, food and fun.
“We’re ready for some football,” Moody said. “We even brought some FSU people with us. This is my daughter, Yarona Thomas, an ’08 FSU graduate,” Moody said.
Besides the excitement, crowds and hospitality in Fayetteville and in Pembroke, Moody touched on an important point about the budding rivalry. The schools are only about 30 minutes apart, and many fans, band members and football players have ties to both communities and both schools.
The home fires were burning for Kellie Blue ‘93, who tailgated last year in Fayetteville and again this year.
“We were treated very hospitably in Fayetteville last year, and we want to return the favor,” Blue said. “This is very exciting and a little new to us.”
Students, some new to football, were still mulling over the rivalry issue. Student Government President Arjay Quizon lives in Fayetteville, but, as an international student, is new to the game of football.
“I would say we are working on building a rivalry,” Quizon said. “I’m excited to see so many people. It’s pretty neat.”
Crowds and rivalry present opportunities. UNCP Office for Advancement literally pitched its tent, and sponsors stepped up for food, said Brian Russo, UNCP’s new development officer for athletics.
Aaron Thomas of Metcon Construction brought grills and Lumbee Guaranty Bank, McDonalds, House of Raeford and Lumberton Ford helped with the costs. Other game day sponsors included Country Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Pembroke Pointe.
Dr. Raymond Pennington, retired athletic director, enjoyed UNCP’s hospitality tent. He said it was destiny that UNCP have a football program.
“This is great, and I knew that football would happen for us,” Dr. Pennington said. “The remarkable thing is how fast the University has built an outstanding football program. That is hard to believe.”
Dr. Pennington is right about that. There were some other prophecies that came true as well.
Five years ago, Kelvin Sampson ’78, who is one of the most successful basketball coaches in the nation, offered his insights on the return of football. Sampson was honorary chair of the First and Ten Campaign for Football.
“I see this as a real positive for the University,” Sampson said in a 2004 pep rally kicking off football.
“Football will have an economic impact, a social impact and a perceptual impact,” Sampson said. “When was the last time UNCP was in the newspaper in July? Imagine what homecoming will be like.”
He was right, said Dan Kenney, UNCP’s athletic director, who has watched over every detail of football’s return to the University. He praised the outstanding sportsmanship of both schools.
“After two years both universities have experienced the great crowd excitement and pageantry that the Two Rivers Classic brings to each campus,” Kenney concluded.
UNCP keeps the Two Rivers Classic cup with a 39-0 victory
The Braves defense was stout and the offense came alive in the second half to defeat Fayetteville State University 39-0 on September 4 to keep the Two Rivers Classic Cup in Pembroke for a second year.
Defense throws FSU for another loss!
A record crowd of 6,249 witnessed a hard-fought first half and stunning second half. UNCP erupted for 32 points in the second half, rolling up 450 yards of offense with 26 first downs to win its 11th straight game on Lumbee Guaranty Bank Field at Grace P. Johnson Stadium.
The Broncos, who lost their starting quarterback the night before the game due to an eligibility issue, could not muster an offense in either half. FSU ended with just 81 yards total offense and gave up 11 tackles behind the line of scrimmage to a very fast, very talented and very deep Braves’ defense.
Coach Pete Shinnick was thrilled with his team’s fast start.
“I’m very excited to see our guys play at the level that they did,” coach Shinnick told The Robesonian afterwards. “Our guys have worked very, very hard. We’ve prided ourselves to be in great shape.”
The first half was a defensive struggle that ended with UNCP up 7-0. That’s when senior leaders, including quarterback Corey Smith and running back Rashon Kennedy, stepped up.
Running back Rashon Kennedy had 115 yards.
Smith stretched FSU’s defense deep and wide with accurate passes. He completed 17-of-26 for 191 yards and a touchdown. As starting quarterback, Smith got his 20th win in 24 games.
On 10 carries, Kennedy ran for 115 yards and two touchdowns. It was the eighth time he has run for more than 100 yards.
Coming out of intermission, Smith executed the offense with precision.
“We struggled a little bit early on, moving the ball but not punching it in,” Smith said. “I thought we had some big plays we should’ve hit but we didn’t.
“We didn’t change up too much, but it was a matter of execution,” the quarterback continued. “We kept pounding the ball and doing what we always do — ball control, long drives and letting our defense do their work.”
The Braves started the third quarter with a seven-play, 82-yard touchdown drive. Keith Gore scored on a five-yard run to cap a march that included completions to four different receivers.
Cody Harrington led all receivers with 40 yards on three catches and a touchdown.
Seven minutes later, UNCP’s defense forced the first turnover of the night after a DeVante Bush sack and fumble at the Bronco 23. It was the first of three sacks for Bush and a 24-0 lead for the home team.
Quarterback Corey Smith had a good day.
“When you shut somebody out, you obviously played very, very well,” Shinnick said. “I was pleased with the way our guys continued to respond play-after-play defensively.”
Kennedy put the exclamation point on a great start for the Braves. With 10:23 left in the fourth quarter, he raced past the FSU secondary for a 50-yard touchdown — his second of the game — to put his team up 33-0.
“Being a senior, this was my last time playing Fayetteville State, and I wanted to leave no doubt,” Kennedy said. “I gave my best every play, and I think I left no doubt.”
FSU coach Kenny Phillips summed up the loss
“It's tough to do anything if you can't run the football,” Phillips said. “Their football team outplayed us tonight. I told our football team in the locker room that this is the last time a football team ever plays harder than us on a Saturday night.”
With seven quarterback sacks, UNCP’s defense was one shy of a school record. The Braves forced one turnover and broke up six passes. Fred Williams, Owen Thomas and Morris McLaughlin each had a sack. Thomas’ tackle resulted in a fourth quarter safety.
The Broncos finished the contest with 22 rushing attempts for 22 yards. Not only did the Braves come to camp in top shape, they are also deep with talent.
“We (rotate) about 19 guys on defense and they know they are going to be fresh and they know they can go hard and go fast,” Shinnick said. “I felt like, offensively, we were missing by just a hair early on and all of that took care of itself in the second half. I think it came down to our conditioning and our commitment to come into this game focused and ready to play at a high level.”