Published 10:03 am Tuesday, September 9, 2014
MURFREESBORO – It was a beautiful night for a comeback.
Chowan University’s football team twice shook off nine-point deficits, the last time by scoring 13 points in three minutes-and-45 seconds, and posted a 26-22 win over Fayetteville State University in a non-Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) game that kicked off the 2014 college season.
It was – as the cliché says, “a total team effort” with the offense, the defense, and the kicking game all having a strong part in the win.
Taking advantage of six FSU turnovers, the last one leading to the game-winning touchdown, the Hawks rolled their way to 306 yards of total offense with 148 yards of that coming off the ground game. DaSean Martin led the Hawks with 21 carries for 108 yards and one touchdown in the win. Roderick Lindsey was leading tackler and he – along with defensive backfield-mate Anthony Prince had two interceptions. At one point early in the game, the pair had more catches from Fayetteville quarterback Derek Bryant than Bryant’s own receivers.
On special teams, right after an FSU score, kick-returner Antjuan Randall, scored on a 95-yard kick-return for a touchdown that swung the momentum in Chowan’s favor.
“It’s a good win, we beat a quality team, but it’s just one win,” said an exuberant head coach Tim Place after the game. “This was a team picked to win the conference and we beat ‘em. There’s a lot of positive energy here tonight and I’m proud of the young men on this team. Whether they played one snap or ten snaps everybody contributed on this team.”
Nick Hahula put Chowan on the board first with 4:08 left in the first quarter by splitting the uprights on a 30-yard field goal. The Broncos worked their way down the field on the next possession and used Bryant’s five-yard pass to Chris Hubert to grab a 6-3 lead just before the end of the first quarter. Antonio Mayo’s point after attempt failed.
With Chowan’s possession starting at the 14:02 mark in the second quarter, the Hawks orchestrated a 12 play, 53 yard drive resulting in another field goal attempt for Hahula. He made good on it, icing the score 6-6, and it remained that way through the end of the quarter all the way to halftime.
Fayetteville State opened the second half with a scoring drive on their first possession to break the stalemate and give the Broncos a 13-6 lead after the extra point attempt with 10:57 left to play in the third quarter.
Chowan’s next drive stalled and the Hawks were forced to punt from deep in their own end of the field. The snap went over Huhula’s head for a safety and the Broncos had stretched their lead to nine points at 15-6.
Still Chowan kept grinding. JR Williams, who split return duties with Randall, had a long punt return at the end of the quarter that led to a two yard touchdown run for Martin, putting the Hawks within striking distance of the Broncos at 15-13.
“It’s not about personal stats, it’s about doing what you’ve got to do to win,” said Williams. “I got plugged into the punt return role late and I knew I had to make plays. I just wanted to make sure my team wins.”
A seven play, 96 yard drive capped by a 59 yard touchdown pass from Bryant to Ricardo White and point after attempt by FayettevilleState left the Hawks trailing by nine again, 22-13, late in the contest.
Fayetteville’s Antonio Mayo then kicked off and Randall took the ball in on his own five-yard line. He then sprinted left, put a move on a pair of defenders and found him in the middle of the field following his blockers and soon he had no one left to beat but the kicker.
“I didn’t even want to think about it,” Randall said, jokingly recalling the play after the game. “I saw him (the kicker) taking a deep angle, so I said I was just going to cut it back and when he tried to grab at me I just stiff-armed him and kept it moving.”
The 95 yard kick-off return for a touchdown followed by the point after on the next play put Chowan back within two points (22-20) of the Broncos, but with 10:40 left in the game, there was still time and it was still anybody’s game.
Fayetteville State appeared to answer Chowan’s big play with one of their own as a 75-yard return put the Broncos at the Chowan 24 yard line. On the third play from scrimmage Bronco running back Marquavi Alston fumbled and the Hawks recovered the ball deep in their own territory to re-seize the momentum.
Martin then took over and he became the engine driving the Hawks offense. He reeled off a 49 yard run up the middle and with four more runs had Chowan at the FSU four-yard line.
“We had to dig deep,” said exhausted offensive lineman Josh DaSilva, collapsing on the ground after the game after opening up so many of those holes for the rushers. “Our running game was on point tonight and while it wasn’t a perfect game there’s nothing we did that we can’t fix.
Once on the four-yard line, quarterback Dain McFarland spotted Damian Ellis in the back of the end zone on a rollout and laid the ball right in his arms. The try for two failed, but the Hawks had the lead at 26-22.
It was then up to Chowan’s defense to hold the Broncos at bay for the remainder of the contest. The first possession was a three-and-out but Chowan couldn’t capitalize. FSU got the ball again with just over three minutes left at their own 20 and drove it 55 yards to the Chowan 25. There, the Hawks made a valiant defensive stand and on fourth and five, with 39 seconds left, Bryant was chased out of the pocket before completing a short pass to Alston who was leveled by Demetrius Newberry and all that remained was for Chowan to run out the clock, allowing the Hawks to secure the four-point victory.
“This (win) was about grinding together and having faith in each other,” said safety Jared Turner. “While it sets the tone for the season we believe we can beat anybody.”
“It’s a good day to be a Hawk,” said Place, smiling as the beads of sweat rolled down his face.
Chowan (1-0) travels to Alderson-Broaddus in West Virginia this Saturday (Sept. 13) to take on the Battlers. Kick-off is slated for 12 noon.