Braves Outlast Fayetteville State In Season Opener
FAYETTEVILLE – UNCP racked up more than 500 yards of total offense and overcame two costly special teams miscues to outdo Fayetteville State, 33-27, in the third annual Two Rivers Classic on Saturday evening at Luther "Nick" Jeralds Stadium.
Travis Daniels carried the ball 20 times for 129 yards and a touchdown and Luke Charles passed for 270 yards and a pair of scores in his first collegiate start to key UNCP to a 536-yard night – one yard shy of a school record for total offense set two years ago in the same game. Donald Britt hauled in six passes for 99 yards, while receiving mates Te'vell Williams and Dom Whittington each registered touchdown receptions.
Darcus Elliott paced the UNCP defense with eight tackles, including seven solo stops, while Fayetteville native Fred Williams recorded six stops, including two tackles for loss, and three pass break-ups.
"I am very proud of our players," said UNCP head coach Pete Shinnick. "We have a lot of new guys playing this year and they were untested coming into tonight. I thought they responded very well. We gave them 14 points tonight, but I thought our defense just kept reacting very well. It was great to see our seniors, like Travis Daniels, and Fred Williams who has been in this program for four years now, help those guys along."
Fayetteville State got a pair of 60+-yard touchdown passes from rookie quarterback Brandon Blumears-Cluff who finished his night with 203 passing yards despite just a 12-for-36 success rate. Colon Bailey turned in 71 rushing yards (17 carries) for the Broncos as well.
East Carolina transfer Damonte Terry gave the Braves their second lead of the game, 13-12, with a 4-yard touchdown plunge with five minutes left in the first half, but Fayetteville State countered a short time later when it pounced on a muffed punt return by Britt. An ensuing two-point conversion would give the hosts a short-lived 20-13 advantage before the Braves countered with a 5-play, 54-yard scoring drive that was capped by a 13-yard touchdown reception by Whittington in the corner of the end zone. The drive took just 61 seconds off the clock and knotted the score at 20 apiece heading into the locker rooms.
The Black and Gold used a 25-yard field goal by Taylor Baskett to grab a 23-20 lead with just less than six minutes gone in the third period, but Fayetteville State got another break early in the fourth when a high snap went over UNCP punter Bill Stanley's head and careened into the end zone where FSU's Richard Carr was there to jump on it.
Daniels, who matched a school record with his fourth career 100-yard rushing game, gave the visitors the lead for good on a 15-yard scamper with 8:41 left to play, and Baskett gave the Braves an insurance score on a 27-yard field goal with 95 seconds left to play.
UNCP will open the home portion of its 2011 schedule on Saturday when the Braves welcome Chowan (1-0) to Grace P. Johnson Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.