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Chowan welcomes Union

MURFREEBORO – A week of celebration could be capped off on the gridiron.

Chowan University has spent the past week celebrating their rise to university status with campus and community celebration.

Second-year head football coach Lorick Atkinson is fully aware a victory by his team would boost that celebratory experience.

&uot;The celebration will go better if we win,&uot; he said. &uot;We are only one part of this great time for our university, but certainly a win would make things go better.&uot;

The Hawks, who make their 2006 home debut at noon today in James G. Garrison Stadium, will try to look for that victory against Union College. The pass-first Bulldogs enter the contest 0-1, identical to Chowan’s start in 2006.

Last week, Union trailed only 7-3 heading into the fourth quarter of their contest with the University of the Cumberlands, but fell 21-9 to the Patriots.

Running the ball proved to be a problem for the Bulldogs as they mustered only 13 yards on the ground against Cumberlands, but passing was a different story.

Quarterback Kyle Callahan connected on 12 of his 28 passes and collected 215 yards while spreading the ball around to five different receivers. Stephen Hunter, who grabbed three balls for 81 yards, led that corps. Shawn Kelly and David Fairbanks also caught three passes each.

Atkinson said he knew the Bulldogs were going to be looking to pass and felt like they were capable of breaking big plays.

&uot;We can’t give up the big play,&uot; he said. &uot;This team has great potential to hit big plays with a pre-season All-American at quarterback.

&uot;They throw first and run later, but they do have run capability,&uot; the coach continued. &uot;We are going to try to do the things we can and play our game.&uot;

Atkinson said one area of concern for his club heading into the game with Union was the same place the opponents have strength: the quarterback position.

&uot;We have to get better play out of the quarterback position,&uot; he said. &uot;Last week was Sam’s (Williams, the starting quarterback) first game in three years and it looked like his first game in three years.&uot;

Atkinson said he would send Randy Gilbert, the 6’1”, 195-pound freshman from Immokalee High School, onto the field this week during select series. That move, however, is not the beginning of a quarterback controversy for the Hawks.

&uot;Sam is our guy,&uot; Atkinson said. &uot;We’re just going to get Randy in the game. We’re pulling a page from Steve Logan (the former head coach at East Carolina University) and giving our starter a chance to get himself calm while Randy gets a series of work.&uot;

The Hawks put together 121 yards on the ground last week, led by 50 yards from Williams and 34 yards on 15 carries by junior fullback Jack Ross.

Where the Chowan coaching staff got their biggest lift was on the offensive line where Atkinson said he saw vast improvement.

&uot;I was pleased with our offensive line,&uot; he said. &uot;We won the time of possession and when you’re playing a team with more depth like Western Carolina, that’s an accomplishment. I felt the O-line made the biggest improvement from our last scrimmage to game time.&uot;

The same five guys will be back on the starting line this week, led by seniors Jermaine Brown at guard and Mike Mansfield at center. Junior Chris Linthicum will anchor one tackle position opposite freshman Corey Perry. Sophomore Jordan Toombs will get the call at the other guard spot.

A key for this week’s contest may well be senior receiver Josh Floyd, who has been hobbled by a knee injury. Floyd caught four passes for 49 yards last week at Western Carolina despite the injury.

Those grabs got him to within 27 yards of becoming Chowan’s all-time leading receiver.

Floyd will get the chance to set the new standard when he takes the field today.

Atkinson said his team would have a different kind of opponent when they take the field today than they did a week ago when they met the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I-AA Catamounts.

&uot;I was proud of our effort last week at Western Carolina,&uot; he said. &uot;When the opposing coach comes in your lockerroom and compliments the coaching staff and the players, that’s what we’re looking for.

&uot;We have a different type of opponent this week,&uot; he said.

&uot;They are a strong football team, but if we play competitive and do things we need to do, we have a chance to win the football game.&uot;