|Golden Bulls’ goal: End record of football futility against Rams|
|JCSU last beat Winston-Salem State in 1996|
|Published Friday, October 11, 2019 3:00 pm|
|PHOTO | CURTIS WILSON|
|Johnson C. Smith running back Donnell Thompson, second from left, celebrates with teammates after scoring in their 26-19 win against Lincoln (Pa.) on Oct. 5.|
Winston-Salem State football has always been a couple of steps ahead of Johnson C. Smith.
The Rams have traditionally been a marquee CIAA program, and in the early 2010s were among the best in Division II with a 2012 national runner-up finish. The Golden Bulls, who last beat WSSU in 1996, are hungry to change the narrative of futility Saturday in Winston-Salem.
“I feel like we’re going to turn it up a notch this week in practice,” senior left tackle Alvin Brown said. “Just know we have something coming for Winston. It’s not going to be the same game like how it’s been the last few years. We’ve been giving them work, but I think we’re going to pull this one off.”
The programs have a common link. JCSU coach Kermit Blount earned induction to the CIAA Hall of Fame based on his exploits as a WSSU quarterback and coach, but he’s never beaten his alma mater in four tries. His Golden Bulls recognize it, as well as a wide-open division race where first-place Fayetteville State has a one-game lead on the field. Beating the Rams (1-4, 0-2 CIAA) would position JCSU (2-3, 1-1) as a viable contender.
“Everything is possible,” junior safety Camerron Ellis said. “The South is right in front of us, but right now we’re thinking about Winston. We haven’t beaten Winston since I’ve been here and I’m going to beat Winston before I leave. That’s my goal.”
The Golden Bulls did their part to play for relevance with a 26-19 win against Lincoln (Pa.) last week at McGirt Field. Although JCSU struggled against the scrappy Lions, the Golden Bulls rode their rejuvenated ground attack and a last-minute defensive stop to seal the result.
“I’m pleased we got the win; I’m not pleased with how we got it,” Blount said. “If we were playing a different ball club we probably wouldn’t have this win. That’s not taking anything away from Lincoln. They came in ready to play, they were prepared; their coaches had a really solid game plan.”
JCSU will need a better effort against WSSU. Redshirt freshman Emanuel Wilson extended his school record of consecutive 100-yard rushing games to four with 135 yards on 19 carries against Lincoln, including 116 yards in the second half with a 36-yard touchdown run.
Another redshirt freshman, quarterback Malik Evans, broke 100 yards passing for the first time in his college career by connecting on 6-of-16 tries in addition to running for a score, but also tossed a late interception that left Lincoln (0-5, 0-2) with an opportunity to tie or go ahead.
Evans is standing in for Antonio Wallace, who is in the concussion protocol.
“They made some freshman mistakes,” Blount said. “Emanuel started out pushing and pressing and we just needed him to relax a little bit and let the game come to him and he ended up making some significant runs for us and putting it in the box once on a long run.
“Malik… made some freshman mistakes which you don’t even expect out of a freshman…but we’ve got to go back and polish it up and make sure we have it ready to go the next time we come out.”
There are a lot of young players at JCSU – 51 freshmen and sophomores are on the roster – but they’ll need to grow up quickly in order to contend for the South title. At this point in the season, everyone’s experienced.
“That’s the attitude you’ve got to have once you’ve finished playing your first collegiate game, because once you go through your first collegiate game, you have to be immune, you have to treat it like you’ve been there before,” Brown said. “Once you get past that first collegiate game, it’s a lot better to be in tune.”
JCSU’s defense, which allowed at least 31 points in the first four games, came up with key stops against Lincoln despite allowing 433 yards. Not only did the Golden Bulls hold the Lions under 20 points, they stymied Lincoln on four straight passes from the JCSU 11 to close the door.
“We played well in some spots and coach [Jeep] Hunter has done a good job in preparing that defense for us week in and week out,” Blount said. “We’ve just got to play a little better coverage and that’s something we’re really going to work on this week to shore up our coverages and make sure our safeties are not getting off the hashes [and out of position] too soon.”
Said Ellis, who intercepted a pass and broke up another in the end zone on Lincoln’s final drive: “I feel like we’ve got to keep working. Even though we’d been struggling the first three weeks, last week [against Virginia Union] we had four turnovers, we had three this week. We have to keep working, we’ve got to get better in the red zone. We had a good red zone stop and hopefully that momentum leads us toward next week.”
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