PEMBROKE – It’s only been four games, but the 2013 University of North Carolina at Pembroke football team has already left its mark.
The No. 16-ranked Braves became the first in program history to start 4-0 Saturday with a 38-10 win over Wingate at Grace P. Johnson Stadium.
“I’m really proud of this team,” said UNCP coach Pete Shinnick. “We’ve got 25 seniors and they made a commitment back in November when we walked off the field at West Liberty that wanted to be in a position like this and they have worked their tails off to get in this position.
“They get a lot of credit for where we are right now because they’ve shown up and worked hard every time out.”
The Braves allowed only 27 yards and two first downs off 23 plays in the first half, stuffing runs at the line as receivers attempted catches in the shadows of the UNCP secondary. The Bulldog defense gained more yards than its offense did in the half, racking up 34 yards on two interceptions.
It was a trend the entire game as the air attack was grounded and the ground attack was pushed back, finishing the game with -18 rushing yards.
Though Wingate got 100 net yards in the second half, the Braves’ lead never got below 18 points and the team had eight sacks, tying a single-game record. It included three sacks from Matt Turner, who is only the third player in program history to reach that mark.
“I was just seeing what coaches were telling us,” Turner said. “The big emphasis this week was getting pressure on the quarterback. We got the calls and just tried to execute.”
The focus, Shinnick said, was on stopping Wingate’s complex routes early and credited much of the success to a gameplan from defensive coordinator Shane Richardson and defensive assistants O.C. Williams and Alex Krutsch.
“They’ve got a lot of underneath and over-the-top type routes and I don’t know that when they caught the ball in the first half, if they got a yard after the guy caught it,” he said. “Sometimes they lost yardage because we were driving them back. That’s a great defensive scheme and that’s understanding what Wingate wants to do offensively.”
The Bulldogs’ total yardage dropped from 567 last year to 127 this year.
The defense translated into offense as well.
UNCP’s second touchdown of the game was on a 49-yard interception return by Darcus Elliot on a pass the deflected straight up off a receiver and into his hands.
In the third quarter, an interception by Quentin Pate gave UNCP the ball at the Wingate 11 and set up a touchdown that put the Braves up 28-3.
UNCP’s offense looked slightly different with linemen George Champion and Wes Carter out, along with Elliott Powell and Demetrius Fairley both out at running.
Josh White and Lee James stepped in on the line and Rontonio Stanley and Tamari White played in the back, combining for 173 rushing yards.
Luke Charles went 19-for-36 passing with two interceptions and three touchdowns, though Shinnick felt like it wasn’t one of his best days.
“When a guy can throw three touchdowns and not have one of his better games, we can build on that and we can work on that,” Shinnick said.
B.J. Bunn led the Braves with 43 rushing yards.
Scott Schlaufman works for Civitas Media as the sports editor at The Robesonian.