Clash of the ‘Titans’

Published 4:25 pm Friday, September 16, 2011

Bit by bit.

For two straight weeks, the Chowan University football team amassed over 450 yards of offense, giving them an average of over 458 per game.

It’s also left them with a record of 1-1.

But Saturday the program has a chance to take another step up in their NCAA Division-II development when they welcome perennial Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) power, Winston-Salem State to James G. Garrison Stadium in the second-ever meeting between the two schools.

The 6 p.m. kickoff will be the Rams’ first trip to Murfreesboro and the Hawks hope to make it memorable; more so for the home team than the visitors.

“They’re one of the better programs in the CIAA,” said fourth-year coach Tim Place, “and a supreme challenge for us.

“But this game is about us, and not them,” he added, “and we have to execute. It’s about assignment, alignment and coming as close as we can to playing the perfect game. Most importantly, we cannot contribute to our own adversity.”

In their week two 49-38 road loss to Peach Belt Conference foe UNC-Pembroke, the Hawks put up those gaudy offensive numbers, but were also victimized by three turnovers on a pair of fumbles and an interception.

“But the important thing,” said Place, “is that we never stopped competing. We didn’t let some of those bad things we were doing beat us and we responded to adversity.

“We were in a position to win – and it would have been a big win – but overall it came down to our first half.”

Pembroke led at the half 35-9, but Chowan scored 21 points in the third quarter, held Pembroke scoreless in the fourth quarter, and scored one more time in the final stanza, but couldn’t get enough going to continue the comeback.

Meanwhile, Winston-Salem State scored early and often and put up a whopping 34 points in the third quarter en route to a 67-16 win over previously unbeaten and unscored-upon Virginia Union.

WSSU quarterback Kameron Smith connected early with tight end Michael Byrd for the first of many scores the Rams would have on the evening. Winston-Salem scored a total of 11 touchdowns in amassing 493 yards of total offense.

“We’re aware of their talent,” said Place, when reminded of what the Rams had done the week-prior, “and of their explosiveness.”

For the second straight week redshirt freshman quarterback Cameron Stover threw four touchdown passes with pre-season All-CIAA selection, receiver Robert Holland, hauling in three of those scoring tosses while former touchdown king, Robert Hodrick, scooped in the other.

The pair are currently the top two receivers in the CIAA.

In all Saturday, Holland hauled in 10 receptions for 150 yards and three touchdowns with his three scores tying a career high as he also caught three touchdowns last October against Virginia Union.

Hodrick, meanwhile, led the Hawks with 12 catches for 138 yards.

“We expected that from those two this season,” said Place.  “We’re just trying to make them more complete players by working on things like their run-blocking.

“But if you throw it up there for them,” he added, “they know how to go and get it.  We just need for them to be a bit more consistent.”

As for quarterback Stover, Place was just as cautious with his praise.

“He’s going in the right direction,” he said of the Michigan gunslinger, “but he knows he has to get better. Despite the errors, we’re generally pleased.”

This Saturday’s match-up will also feature the number-two and number-three scoring offenses in the league.  On the opposite side of the ball: Winston-Salem State is second in scoring defense while the Hawks are a not-too-shabby eighth among a dozen league teams.

The two schools are also side by side, statistically, in passing offense, passing defense and rushing offense.

“We’ve got to get more consistent with our running game,” said Place. “We had 150 yards (154, to be exact) on the ground, but we also had six sacks and that was minus-60 yards there. “

In the backfield running back tandem of J.R. Williams and Elliot Smalls, Place said, “They’re good kids and they work hard.

“We’ve got to be big on both sides of the ball,” he added, “because we’re going up against one of the best.  They’ve (WSSU) got a lot of talent and we’re going to need to give a great effort for the entire sixty minutes.

“We’ve had a big signature win before,” he pointed out, “in Virginia Union last year; but again, I emphasize, this is about us and not them.

“Fans’ expectations (after the 36- point season opening win over Livingstone) are pretty high,” he added, “and they (the fans) aren’t just expecting us to show up and play, they’re demanding it.”

That season-opening Thursday night game featured a near capacity crowd at Garrison and Place hopes for the same community response this weekend.

“We appreciate the community, the students, and the fans’ support,” he said, “we just need a great game and we need to play hard.”