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Sports

CIAA football schedule a reset for struggling Johnson C. Smith
Conference games a chance to reverse course
 
Published Thursday, September 21, 2017 8:01 am
by Herbert L. White

PHOTO/CURTIS WILSON
Johnson C. Smith quarterback Terrance Ervin leads the Golden Bulls in passing and rushing yards.

Woe is Johnson C. Smith football.


The Golden Bulls are 0-3 and have been outscored 123-24, including 85-6 in losses to Virginia State and S.C. State the last two weeks. If there’s any good news in that stretch of futility, it’s that the schedule gets easier, at least on paper. CIAA play begins Saturday with a road date at Elizabeth City State, followed by Chowan. If the Golden Bulls are going to turn their season around, they have to:

• Win the trenches. JCSU is MIA on offense, where the Golden Bulls have yet to establish a rhythm. The result is a measly average of 200.3 yards per game.

Terrance Ervin has the tools to be a fine quarterback, but it’s hard to make anything happen when he’s dodging defenders every time he drops back to pass. Ervin’s completion percentage is 48.7 percent, but the never-ending deluge of pressure makes it tougher. When he does escape, Ervin is athletic enough to be the Golden Bulls’ top rusher with 24 carries for 104 yards. The next best rusher is tailback Braxton Gambrell with 33 attempts for 62 yards.

• Repair the broken special teams. It’s telling that JCSU’s first play of the year was a fumbled kick return, which Wingate turned into a 7-0 lead. The Golden Bulls haven’t been right since, with no successful extra point conversions and five punts blocked in three games, which suggests missed assignments or punter Brandon Howard is slow in getting the ball away. Howard, who also handles placekicking, is clearly struggling, but there’s no one to turn to.

• Exert some defensive pressure. When opponents are content to rip off 5.3 yards per carry, it always spells trouble. It’s especially troublesome once JCSU falls behind early because they’ve proven incapable of catching up on offense. With the luxury of dictating terms, foes are racking up an average of 409.3 yards per game, including 261.3 on the ground. JCSU’s leading tackler is safety Carlo Thomas with 30 stops, followed by cornerback Basir Wright’s 19.

The Golden Bulls haven’t been able to stop anyone in scoring territory. Opponents have driven inside JCSU’s red zone 21 times, converting 15 trips into points with 10 touchdowns. Five drives resulted in field goals.

• Engineer explosive plays. JCSU has two interceptions and no fumbles recovered, which means the Golden Bulls aren’t flipping the field or changing momentum with defense. They have yet to record a sack and quarterbacks are steering clear of throwing at Thomas, who had 19 picks the previous two seasons. Offensively, JCSU accounted for five plays of 20 yards or more, an average of 1.66 per game.

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