‘The honeymoon is over’
MURFREESBORO – One game and one win into his maiden voyage as a collegiate head coach and Lorick Atkinson says the honeymoon is over.
While it would be easy to relish the sweet taste of victory that came last week when his Braves rallied to a 16-13, season-opening win at Randolph-Macon, Atkinson is squarely focused on Chowan’s next foe – a second straight road trip to Virginia this Saturday (Sept. 10) where the Braves meet the University of Virginia at Wise.
Both clubs enter the 1:30 p.m. contest at 1-0 overall and both won their openers in identical fashion by rallying down the stretch.
At Randolph-Macon, the Braves battled back from a 13-0, third quarter deficit thanks to TD runs by Jack Ross and Josh Floyd plus a 24-yard field goal from Nick Alejandro. Floyd’s run of nine yards with less than two minutes left in the game proved as the clincher.
Meanwhile, UVA-Wise freshman running back Hakeem Abdul-Saboor rushed for 151 yards in his college debut and scored his club’s final three TD’s as the Highland Cavaliers rallied from a 24-7 first half deficit to collect a 27-26 road win on Aug. 27 in Tigerville, S.C.
The Cavaliers, fresh off an open week, are undoubtedly looking forward to their home opener against Chowan. The two clubs last met in 1997 (UVA-Wise was then known as Clinch Valley College) where the Highland Cavaliers claimed a 27-3 win, their fourth straight victory over the Braves in a series that began in 1994.
&uot;Not taking anything away from Randolph-Macon, but we’ll see a much better football team this Saturday than we did last week,&uot; Atkinson said on Tuesday during his weekly meeting with the press.
He continued, &uot;They pose some problems. They are a NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) school with more scholarships to offer. Plus we’ll be playing on artificial turf, which is of great concern for us because of the speed of the game. We’ve got to be ready to match their speed.&uot;
Another concern for Atkinson is trying to work out the kinks of last week.
&uot;We’re going to have to get better on both sides of the football if we think we’ve got a chance to win this weekend,&uot; Atkinson stressed. &uot;And we’ve got to do a better job coaching and that starts with me. We had a lot of misalignment calls last Saturday, but you need to remember that was our first game together as a new staff.&uot;
After last week’s game, Atkinson huddled his team together and begged for 60 total minutes of effort this weekend.
&uot;Offensively, we’ve got to gain more consistency and move the football,&uot; he said. &uot;Our defense was on the field way too much in the first half of the Randolph-Macon game.&uot;
The stats are there to back-up the coach. Chowan only mustered 57 yards of total offense in the first half last week. That lack of offensive consistency allowed for Chowan’s defense to be on their field for 21 of the 30, first-half minutes.
&uot;I was proud of the fact that we had some kids to step up and make big plays when we needed them in key situations, but we need that same type of effort for 60 minutes,&uot; Atkinson said. Our defense did a great job of holding them out of the endzone in the second half. Then we got the blocked punt and the tide really turned. We could see it then in the eyes of the Randolph-Macon players; they didn’t think they could beat us.&uot;
Does Atkinson think the thrill of last week’s win can carry over to this week?
&uot;Sure it can,&uot; he answered. &uot;They know we, together as players and coaches, can get it done. The trust level between the players and the coaches is there. We believe in each other.&uot;