No. 24 Bulldogs beat youthful Braves 57-14
By Brad Crawford
UNCP head coach Pete Shinnick knew before the Sept. 15 game against 24th-ranked Wingate that his young, inexperienced Braves had their work cut out for them against a quality opponent.
“We knew that Wingate was going to be the toughest team we’ve played so far this season,” Shinnick said. “We made a number of mistakes and I would’ve liked to see how the game played out without those errors.”
Despite losing 18 seniors from last year’s 8-3 squad, the Bulldogs gained 542 yards of total offense and scored eight touchdowns as 24th-ranked Wingate trampled UNCP 57-14 in front of 4,100 fans at Lumbee Guaranty Bank Field.
Led by a pair of returning 2006 All-South Atlantic Conference players in wide receiver Gary Tatum and defensive end Kenwin Cummings, Wingate (4-0) drove 62 yards in just eight plays after the opening kickoff silencing the UNCP sideline just three minutes into the game.
Tatum’s 16-yard touchdown reception from senior quarterback J.D. Moore gave the Bulldgos a 7-0 first quarter lead. Moore finished with 291 yards through the air and threw four touchdown passes, leading his team to a commanding 42-7 halftime advantage.
“J.D. may have had his best game of his career this afternoon,” said Wingate coach Joe Reich. “He hit every open receiver except one and allowed us to excel offensively. I believe we played our most complete game of the season. We have to play these guys (UNCP) for three more years, so we’ll be ready.”
Wingate tailback Patrick Pinchinat tried his best to match Moore’s offensive explosion with three rushing touchdowns of his own to go along with 40 yards on the ground.
In comparison, the Braves
(1-2) gained 255 yards offensively, achieving 14 first downs. Starting quarterback and Ventura County, Calif., native Matt Evans completed 10 of 18 passes for 127 yards without an interception.
Evans’ streak of two consecutive games with a touchdown pass was snapped by the Wingate secondary.
Tailback Rashan Kennedy was held to just 18 yards on seven attempts after gaining at least 115 yards in his first two collegiate games.
Backup quarterback Cory Smith, replacing Evans behind center in the fourth quarter, led the Braves on a scoring drive with 52 seconds remaining, punctuated by a 1-yard touchdown run from Brandon McLaurin providing the final tally.
Linebackers Kyle Harris and Seth Warren led the Braves defense with 10 tackles each.
James Alexander added a sack for the Braves to go along with a tackle for loss.
UNCP freshman defensive end Ben Kurti described Wingate as “bigger, stronger and faster than us in all aspects of the game.”
“Some of our guys haven’t learned what college football is yet,” Kurti said. “Our freshman we have on this team must learn this isn’t the high school game anymore. These players are 23 and 24-year old men that may sometimes be stronger and more athletic than you. I’m one of the tallest players on our team, but compared to Wingate’s offensive line, I was small.”
The Bulldogs put together six scoring drives of less than three minutes for the game including all four of their scoring drives in the second half.
Wingate notched points on nine of its 15 total possessions and was forced to punt only three times by the Brave defense.
Wingate’s lone turnover came on a fantastic interception from UNCP cornerback Phil Long with 5:43 remaining in the third quarter, halting a Wingate drive inside the Brave 45-yard line.
UNCP again was marred by turnovers as the Braves lost five fumbles, including a bad snap that was sent over Matt Evans’ head and returned for a 65-yard touchdown by Wingate’s Jon Mckinney.
Coach Shinnick believed that play early in the second quarter, after the Braves had the ball 1st-and-10 inside the Bulldog 30, was the turning point in the contest.
“We had put together a solid drive and were about to tie the game at 7 when we snapped it over Matt’s head,” said Shinnick. “In order to beat a team of Wingate’s stature, you must limit your own mistakes and we were not able to do that this afternoon.”
Shinnick said that young players will need to gain more experience before UNCP gets where it needs to be.
UNCP will play at Chowan next on Sept. 29 after losing to the Jacksonville Dolphins 55-10 on Sept. 22.
Photo courtesy of UNCP Sports Information
Redshirt-freshman Brandon McLaurin carries a Wingate defender across the goal line late in the fourth quarter for a 3-yard touchdown run on Sept. 15.
Bulldogs 14 28 12 3 - 57
Braves 0 7 0 7 - 14
Wingate - Gary Tatum 19 pass from JD Moore (Jonathan Beford kick)
Wingate - Jon McKinney 65 fumble recovery (Beford kick)
Wingate - Patrick Pinchinat 15 run (Beford kick)
Wingate - Pernell Thompson 26 pass from Moore (Beford kick)
UNCP - Keith Gore 1 run (Andrew Williams kick)
Wingate - Jordan Softcheck 8 pass from Moore (Beford kick)
Wingate - Pinchinat 2 run (Beford kick)
Wingate - Pinchinat 8 run (Beford kick failed)
Wingate - Softcheck 19 pass from Moore (Beford kick blocked)
Wingate - Michael Crutchfield 34 field goal
UNCP - Brandon McLaurin 3 run (Williams kick)
Passing - Wingate: J.D. Moore 21-30-0-291, James Hall 2-7-1-20. UNCP: Matt Evans 10-18-0-127, Cory Smith 5-9-0-69.
Rushing - Wingate: Marcus Davis 9-78, Jamie Lilly 14-72, Pinchinat 7-40, Hall 5-25, Tatum 1-17. UNCP: Keith Gore 11-45, McLaurin 8-21, Rashan Kennedy 7-18, Funderburk 4-14.
Receiving - Wingate: Tatum 6-94, Softcheck 6-72, Thompson 2-28, Brad Horne 2-23, Kameron Kranz 1-29, UNCP: Al Bryant 4-63, L.J. Johnson 2-26, Josh Throckmorton 2-20, Keith Farrington 2-20, Justin Funderburk 1-46.