UNCP football shows toughness
but the Wildcats survive 31-21
By Dan Kelly
UNCP lost its first regular season football game 31-21 against the Davidson Wildcats, but their quality of play impressed the numerous traveling fans.
The score could have possibly been closer, if not for two missed extra points and a missed field goal.
For Head Coach Pete Shinnick, those mental mistakes along with others committed by the team were the main reason for their defeat.
“Every play matters, whether it happens in the first, second, third or fourth quarters. You don’t know what affected that (the final score),” Shinnick said.
It was looking grim for the Braves during the opening drive, when Davidson comfortably drove down the field and scored a passing touchdown.
Those fortunes were quickly reversed when QB Matt Evans and WR Darrin Watkins fooled the defense on a 64-yard TD pass on the following drive.
“He (the defending cornerback) saw the underneath route and didn’t think I was going vertical…I looked back at my quarterback, we connected eyes and then it was a touchdown,” Watkins said.
That spectacular catch was the only significant play by the Braves’ offense in the first half.
On defense, UNCP allowed two rushing touchdowns and a field goal the remainder of the half.
The Braves then turned the momentum on their final drive with numerous chances at a touchdown ending in a last-second 26-yard field goal for a 24-9 deficit.
In the third quarter, the offensive line was exploding off the ball and Rashan Kennedy sliced through the defense all the way to a 1st and goal opportunity.
The Braves scored their second touchdown of the day with a bobbled catch by TE Josh Throckmorton.
“The offense played together tonight,” Evans said. “We saw them on film and said we had a chance.”
Whatever chances the team had were dimmed after the second missed extra point for a 24-15 score at the end of the third quarter.
Davidson went on a 96-yard drive to start the fourth quarter that ended in a 10-yard passing TD for a clinching 31-15 lead.
UNCP never caved as they scored another TD with 1:40 remaining, but the missed two-point conversion lowered the chance of a miracle comeback.
Overall, the team was pleased with their performance, but felt victory had only just eluded them.
“We should’ve won. I think we beat ourselves tonight,” Evans said.
In fact, Shinnick revealed a surprising comment while the team was down 24-9 at halftime. He felt momentum changing hands.
“I told them in the second half, I thought we were going to come out and win the game,” Shinnick said.
Kennedy was a revelation for the Braves with 119 rushing yards and 162 total yards. Evans threw for 21-44 along with 268 yards and 3 TDs with one interception.
Free safety Talbert Fullwood led the defense with 11 solo tackles during the game.
Watkins was injured by a cornerback rolling over his leg, but still seemed upbeat on the future of the team.
“We know we can play. I know what we need to do,” Watkins said.