No. 15 UNCP Charges Past Red Hot Concord
ATHENS, W.Va. – Visiting UNCP amassed nearly 400 yards of total offense and held the nation’s 12th-ranked scoring offense to a lone third quarter touchdown to help the 15th-ranked Braves spoil Homecoming at Concord with a 27-9 victory over the Mountain Lions Saturday afternoon at Callaghan Stadium.
Rashon Kennedy rushed 19 times for 112 yards to key a 264-yard rushing attack for UNCP (7-1) who extended its midseason winning streak out to four games, as well as recording its second-straight series victory over Concord (5-4). Travis Daniels (15-96) and Keith Gore (10-33) each provided rushing touchdowns, with Jamal Williams hauling in five catches for 31 yards, as well as a first quarter score.
Concord’s second half touchdown was the first allowed by the UNCP stop troops since its lone loss of the season at Carson-Newman on September 19, but the nation’s seventh-ranked scoring defense has still yielded just 104 points (13.0/game) this season. The Black and Gold forced three turnovers on the day to move to +8 on the season in that category as well.
“Our defense played great today. They shut down an offense that was averaging close to 500 yards and 37 points per game,” said UNCP head coach Pete Shinnick. “Our defensive coaches really put together a great game plan and our guys executed it very well. We had a great week of preparation and they came out and just made it happen. I was really happy for them to see that take place.”
The Braves scored on all four trips to the red zone, and converted two Mountain Lion turnovers into 10 points. The Black and Gold would score put 10 additional points on the board on a pair of drives that ensued after Concord had turned the ball over on downs.
Redshirt freshman Fred Williams led the Braves in the tackles column for the second-straight game, this time registering eight stops, including five of the solo variety. Morris McLaughlin turned in a pair of sacks on the day to bring his career total to five drops behind the line in two games at Callaghan Stadium, while Terrell Partlow recorded a game-ending interception – his second pickoff of the season.
“I think the bye week actually helped us, rather than hurt us,” Shinnick said. “Our guys handled it very well – they were competitive and they flew around the field all day. We came back on Monday ready to work and it paid off for us today.”
The day didn’t start off well for the UNCP offense as its first play from scrimmage resulted in a bad snap and an eventual safety when the ball rolled out of the back of the end zone, but the Braves forced and recovered a fumble on the next Concord possession to begin a productive day. Quarterback Cory Smith, who finished the day with 133 yards on 14-of-20 passing, completed all four of his passes on the ensuing 8-play, 58-yard scoring drive, including a 9-yard scoring strike to Williams in the back of the end zone for the early 7-2 lead.
Concord would drive all the way down to the UNCP 33-yard line on its next possession before a holding penalty and three-straight incomplete passes by Steven Hearon would force the Mountain Lions to turn the ball over on downs. A 1-yard touchdown run by Gore a short time later would complete a 7-play, 67-yard scoring drive by the Braves and give the visitors a 14-2 lead heading into intermission.
The Mountain Lions drove 87 yards in seven plays on their opening possession of the second half and scored their final points of the day on Hearon’s short pass to Rashid Baker, but the Braves answered the score with one of their own, padding their advantage out to 21-9 with a 67-yard, all-rushing scoring drive that was culminated on a 1-yard touchdown run by Daniels with 4:02 left in the third quarter.
The Black and Gold capped the game’s scoring with two Taylor Baskett field goals in the fourth quarter, including a career-best 42-yarder by the sophomore with just less than two minutes left to play.
UNCP will continue a regular season-ending 4-game road trip next Saturday when the Braves head to Frostburg, Md., to battle NCAA Division III-member Frostburg State (0-7). Kickoff has been set for 1 p.m. at Bobcat Stadium.