Ripped City!

Published 10:54 am Tuesday, September 26, 2017

MURFREESBORO – After the game, he didn’t even know he’d had a record night. That’s how much Michael Offutt Jr. wanted to remember his first win in Chowan blue-and-white: and it came against the Blue Bears.

Offutt’s heroics (346 all-purpose yards: 189 yards rushing, 32 yards receiving, 37 kick return yards and 88 punt return yards) helped power Chowan University to its first football victory of the season, a 25-12 showing against Livingstone College here Saturday night. It was also Chowan’s first win in Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) action.

Offutt’s all-purpose yards were a school record, and his rushing total was sixth best in school Division-II history.

“It feels good,” the Germantown, MD sophomore said, nearly breathless, after the game. “The best thing is this was a total team win. The offensive line did a great job of opening the holes for me, and after that I just got going and got it together.”

As strong as Offutt’s offensive prowess was, the Hawk defense was just as potent: sacking a trio of Blue Bear quarterbacks eight times. Freshman linebacker, Dre Terry, paced the Hawks with 13 tackles.  Nate Wyche added two sacks and two forced fumbles on the evening, placing the Suffolk, VA native just one sack behind program leader, TJ Batchelor, who finished with 20 career sacks.

“It feels like we’re living up to our potential,” said Terry after the game. “We’ve just got to keep playing hard. The biggest thing is keeping our composure (Chowan was whistled for 44 yards in penalties: four of those seven flags on defense), but most of this stuff we can clean up in practice.”

Freshman quarterback Bryce Witt ran for one touchdown and again eclipsed the 200 yard mark in passing, connecting with receivers on 10-of-28 passing for 203 yards and two scores.  Ra’Cee Lucas had just two of those receptions, but made them count as the redshirt freshman found pay-dirt twice on his only two grabs of the night.

Kicker Connor Killeen connected on two-of-three field goals and thanks to some deep, solid punts, he pinned the Blue Bears inside their own 10-yard line twice.

After forcing the Blue Bears into a three-and-out on Livingstone’s first possession of the game, Chowan took advantage of a shanked punt by the Blue Bears and drove 44 yards for their first score. Offutt picked up 38 yards on a seven-yd rush and a 31-yard swing pass taking the ball down to the six yard line.  Quarterback Witt then found the end zone two plays later for the 7-0 lead just 3:12 into the contest.

But then Witt made a freshman mistake, getting picked off on Chowan’s next possession and taken back the other way by Livingstone’s Elems Ukwu for a 34-yard ‘pick six’.  However, the Hawks defense would thwart the two-point conversion try keeping Chowan ahead 7-6.

Chowan’s third drive stalled at the LC 16 yard line as a holding penalty killed the momentum; but, Killeen connected on a 33-yard field goal to give the Hawks a 10-6 lead with 5:16 remaining in the opening quarter.

But on its next possession, Livingstone went to a ball control offense, methodically moved the ball down the field and taking their only lead of the contest on a seven-yard touchdown run by Justin Ruffin – son of late Bertie High coach Tyrese “Bull” Ruffin – that put the Blue Bears up 12-10.

The second quarter was not as fruitful as the opening stanza as neither team found the end zone during 15 minutes of play. Chowan’s defense stopped one Blue Bear drive on fourth down inside the red zone. Witt would command Chowan’s next drive, down to the Livingstone 18; but the drive stalled and Killeen’s 35-yard field goal attempt would sail wide left.

On its next possession, the Hawks drove to the Blue Bears 36 and Witt went for it all, but was intercepted at the 10-yard line. Once again, the defense rose for the Hawks as Nate Wyche forced a fumble and a sack by Tyler Bembry on fourth down held Livingstone off the scoreboard. The Blue Bears’ two-point margin held up through halftime.

Chowan received the opening kick of the second half as Offutt and Witt drove the Hawks into Livingstone territory before Witt found Lucas in the back of the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown reception, giving the lead back to the Blue-and-White.  However, the two-point conversion failed the Hawks lead was only four at 16-12.

Witt’s touchdown was the only points of the third    quarter as Livingstone had to punt on the opening drive of the fourth quarter after five plays.  Offutt then electrified the crowd with a punt return of 64 yards that put the Hawks in the red zone. That’s where Witt found Lucas slanting across the field from 17 yards out, good for the third Hawks touchdown of the night as a 22-12 Chowan lead after the point-after was blocked.

Nate Wyche gave the Hawks the ball back with a strip sack of Blue Bear quarterback Xavier Longerbeam on the next possession, but a stalled Chowan drive led to a field goal.  Killeen connected on a 36-yard attempt to put Chowan up 25-12 with almost seven-and-a-half minutes left in the game.

The Chowan defense kept the Blue Bears offense at-bay, and Marcus Devin helped seal the Blue Bears’ fate with an interception on one possession, followed on the next one by a Nate Wyche sack on fourth down.

“It wasn’t pretty,” said head coach Tim Place. “The offense did a lot – not perfect – but they had great effort, and the defense allowed just one touchdown, and that was in the first half.   All three phases of the game: offense, defense, and special teams performed well, but we have got to get better.“

“We didn’t help ourselves by making things easier for them,” said Blue Bears coach Daryl Williams. “We didn’t match their intensity, and they (Chowan) were the better team tonight.”

Chowan (1-3) heads back on the road next Saturday as the Hawks travel to Charlotte to face the winless Golden Bulls of Johnson C. Smith (0-4) in another CIAA cross-over game. Kick-off is set for 1 p.m. at Irwin Belk Stadium in the Queen City.