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J.C. Smith football mantra: Take nothing for granted
Golden Bulls haven’t learned how to turn good starts into wins
 
Published Wednesday, October 23, 2019 11:09 am
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

PHOTO | CURTIS WILSON
Johnson C. Smith running back Emanuel Wilson is 8 yards short of becoming the first freshman to break the 1,000-yard barrier in school history. The North Mecklenburg High graduate is 268 yards away from matching Ernest “Warhorse” Williams’ single season school record of 1,260 yards set in 1975.

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There’s no such thing as a sure thing for Johnson C. Smith football.


Seven weeks into the season, the Golden Bulls are still trying to figure how to turn close games into wins. Saturday’s 35-34 loss to CIAA South leader Fayetteville State was the latest example in which the Broncos scored the game-winning touchdown with 2 minutes, 2 seconds left.


“Don’t take anything for granted,” JCSU quarterback Antonio Wallace said. “Don’t take the points for granted, don’t take the lead for granted. Always finish because you never know what could happen.”


The good news is the Golden Bulls are competitive. The bad? They haven’t developed a killer instinct yet.


“Hopefully, it’ll bring us together and let us know it’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish,” said receiver Janarius Hood, who caught three passes for 21 yards and a touchdown. “We’ve got to be able to finish. We started good, had the energy to play for three and a half quarters. In that last of the fourth quarter they got the best of us.”


It’s a recurring theme for JCSU (2-5, 1-4 CIAA), which gave 6-1 Fayetteville State all it could handle. The Golden Bulls scored on their first two possessions of the fourth to lead 34-23 with 9:20 to play but couldn’t seal the deal against the Broncos, who made plays down the stretch behind quarterback Richard Latimer, a West Mecklenburg High graduate.


The Golden Bulls are 0-3 in games they’ve led after a quarter and 1-4 when trailing after three, which suggests they’re not converting strong starts into wins.
 “We’ve got to learn how to close out,” coach Kermit Blount said. “We had a chance to do it early in the [decisive] drive on fourth-and-6, and we didn’t close out. We had other drives during the course of the game where we didn’t close it out. We had some opportunities on offense where we had a chance to close things out on our end and we didn’t. It’s a learning process for these kids and it’s a learning process for us and we’re going to keep on humping, keep on pounding.”


Part of JCSU’s struggles is linked to youth. Of the 79 players who suited up against Fayetteville State, 51 are freshmen or sophomores, experience Hood believes will set the Golden Bulls up for future success.


“That’s going to help mold them because that’s showing them the way now. You’re getting put in that fire early, so now by your junior or sophomore year, you’re going to know how it feels so you know how to change the flow of the game and know how to win.”


With three games left in the season, Blount is focused on getting JCSU to look forward to the next opportunity to improve on back-to-back 2-8 campaigns.

“We’ve still got to come back Monday and get ready for our next ball game, which is Shaw for homecoming,” he said. “It’s a learning process for them and this game we’ll learn from and make us a better football team because we know now when we do play football and play the right way, we can play with anybody in this league.”


Said Hood: “Each year you’ve got to get better and with this being my senior year I want to leave some type of legacy. The last couple of years it’s been two wins, so hopefully we can finish out these last three strong and get these [wins], and we’ll be good.”


Some observations:


WILSON CONTINUES TO SHINE
Redshirt freshman running back Emanuel Wilson continues to make his case for all-CIAA after rushing for 195 yards and three scores on 21 carries against FSU. He’s run for at least 100 yards in four of the last five games and within 8 yards of becoming the first freshman to break the 1,000-yard barrier in school history. Wilson is 268 yards shy of Earnest “Warhorse” Williams’ single season rushing record of 1,260 yards set in 1975.


THIRD DOWN STRUGGLES
In addition to giving up 35 points, the Golden Bulls allowed 472 yards against the Broncos and most telling was their failure to close on third down. FSU converted 11-of-17, compared to JCSU’s 4-of-11.


“We just have to get off the field in crucial situations,” Blount said. “Third-and-longs, third-and-mediums; we had a couple of third-and-14s and 16s that we end up giving up. We can’t give those up and we’ve got to continue to turn the sticks on offense and keep our drives consistent, and our quarterback play has got to be more consistent as well.”


GET VERTICAL
Quarterback Antonio Wallace completed 9-of-17 passes but managed only 54 and a 10-yard touchdown strike to Hood. As defenses load up to stop Wilson, he’ll need to get the ball downfield in chunks to open the offense.


“You’ve got to have that quarterback who sees the same thing you see on the sideline and upstairs,” Blount said. “We’re getting there. We’re not where I want to be right now, but we’re working to get our quarterbacks there.”


REAL SPECIAL TEAMS
JCSU blocked two Fayetteville State punts, turning one into Wilson’s 8-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Ivoree Atkinson returned a fumbled snap on another punt 27 yards for a score.

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