September 22, 2017
Written by Thomas Scott
There was a tremendous amount of hype leading into yesterday’s contest between N.C. Central and South Carolina State. The game was nationally televised on ESPNU as part of the network’s Thursday night college football coverage. Both schools entered the game with 1-1 records and were looking to take an early lead in the MEAC standings.
The South Carolina State offense looked sharp early. On their opening drive, the Bulldogs drove deep into N.C. Central territory. They were threatening to score until NCCU linebacker, Davanta Reynolds swooped in to recover a pitch intended for South Carolina State’s running back. Reynolds recovered the fumble and returned it 85 yards for a touchdown. This play earned Reynolds a spot on the SportsCenter Top 10 Plays of the Night.
Despite trailing 7-0 early, South Carolina State dominated time of possession. The N.C. Central offense didn’t get their first touch until 4:30 was left in the first quarter. When the Eagle offense finally got the ball, they struggled to make anything happen.
Momentum began to shift when Jabari Nelson of N.C. Central’s special teams unit was ejected on a vicious targeting hit to South Carolina State punt returner, Tra’Quan Dubose. Nelson would be ejected.
The next N.C. Central drive stalled and ended with a blocked punt. Ford again capitalized on good field position, this time rushing for a touchdown. Ford threw another touchdown and before you knew it South Carolina State had a 21-7 lead over N.C. Central with 8:46 remaining in the second quarter.
While trailing 21-7, the Eagles lost their starting quarterback to injury. For most teams this setback would cause widespread panic. Coach Jerry Mack’s Eagles aren’t most teams.
Coach Mack inserted Chauncey Caldwell, a true freshman quarterback in the game. In his first drive, Caldwell capped off a 76 yard scoring drive with a 27 yard touchdown pass. The touchdown helped the Eagles close the gap to 21-14 at halftime.
From this point on it was all N.C. Central. The Eagle defense held South Carolina State to 7 points in the second half. A pair of field goals by N.C. Central trimmed the Bulldogs lead to one in the third quarter.
Dewann Ford responded with a touchdown run to give South Carolina State a 28-20 lead at the end of the third quarter. The Bulldogs wouldn’t score again.
Chauncey Caldwell was extremely poised leading the N.C. Central offense. Caldwell wreaked havoc on the South Carolina State defense rushing for 91 yards on the day. However, he was eventually shaken up on a run and taken out of the game. At this point the Eagles were down to their 3rd string quarterback and trailing by 8 points in the fourth quarter. 3rd string quarterback Naiil Ramadan stepped up and threw the biggest touchdown of his career. The 20 yard touchdown pass was nearly intercepted but caught by Jacen Murphy and brought the Eagles within two points of South Carolina State.
Trailing 26-28, the Eagles attempted a two point conversion but were stuffed in one of the best hits college football has seen all season. This play also made the SportsCenter Top 10.
Caldwell would eventually return to the game for N.C. Central. Upon his return he calmly threw a 38 yard touchdown which would put the Eagles up for good. The defense clamped down in the final minutes and N.C. Central escaped with the 33-28 victory over South Carolina State.