College Football: Livingstone needs win

SALISBURY — Edward Waters has a proud tradition as the oldest black college in Florida, but the school was on the ropes in the late 1990s with enrollment down to 319 students and talk of closing the doors.

Edward Waters had dropped football in 1966. Thirty-five years later, in 2001, football returned to the Jacksonville school, and football is credited as a serious factor in Edward Waters’ comeback as an institution. The revitalized NAIA school now has about 800 students.

Jimmy Jenkins was the president of Edward Waters when it resurrected football, and now he’s the president of Livingstone.

So you can imagine how important Saturday afternoon’s Livingstone-Edward Waters game in Jacksonville is to Jenkins — and how important it is to interim Livingstone head coach Daryl Williams.

“We want to make our president and our administration that has given us so much support proud,” Williams said. “I’ve never wanted to win a game so much in my life.”

Kickoff is at 2 p.m. in Earl Kitchings Stadium at Raines High School.

Williams was disappointed last Saturday in the 42-16 home loss to Catawba that was pretty one-sided. It was 42-0 before the Blue Bears finished strong.

But at Monday’s practice, the Blue Bears (0-2) started fixing the small mistakes that snowballed on them against Catawba.

“I feel a lot better now, as good as an 0-2 football coach can feel, because we got some things corrected,” Williams said on Wednesday morning. “We’ve got 30-some new football players. It just takes time. I’ve got to respect the process.”

It helped Williams that he watched the Pittsburgh Steelers-Cincinnati Bengals game on Monday night. The Steelers are Williams’ favorite NFL team and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin’s motto “The standard is the standard” is Williams’ adopted mantra, but the Steelers struggled mightily against the Bengals and fell to 0-2.

“There’s a certain amount of misery with the position that we’re in,” Tomlin said after that ugly performance. “We’ll wear it. We don’t like it. We’ll wear it.”

Livingstone also doesn’t like 0-2, but Williams is wearing it.

“I just have to remember that a whole lot of football teams are 0-2 right now, and some of them are good football teams,” Williams said. “All the goals we set before the season can still be accomplished. We just have to get more accustomed to playing in big games.”

Livingstone quarterback Drew Powell threw for 334 yards against Catawba, while Anthony Holland had 126 yards in receptions, so there’s a chance that duo will have a huge day against the Tigers of Edward Waters.

Livingstone’s trouble spots against Catawba were a net of just 58 rushing yards, seven sacks allowed, 516 yards allowed and struggles covering kickoffs.

Reading between the stat lines, however, Livingstone actually ran more plays than Catawba and gained 5.2 yards per play, so maybe Williams isn’t just whistling in the dark when he says the Blue Bears aren’t that far away.

“We had to juggle the offensive line Saturday because we had two starters out and guys played out of position,” Williams said. “But a lot of our linemen performed well Saturday. We really are close.”

Williams rolled film of a specific play in the Catawba game to illustrate how close the Blue Bears were to making things a lot more interesting. A Catawba running back is hit and loses the ball, and there’s a scramble for possession that involves one Indian and five Blue Bears. An official signals that it’s still Catawba’s ball.

“That ball is out, and I thought we got it,” Williams said. “But we needed to pull that ball out of there and not leave any room for doubt.”

Livingstone came very close last season when it played Edward Waters — losing 42-36 in Salisbury. Livingstone lost 14-13 when it visited Edward Waters in 2011.

Edward Waters is 0-3 this year, losing big, like it was supposed to, at FCS school Alcorn State before allowing 249 rushing yards to one back and losing to Point University. Last week at home, Edward Waters came out on the short end of a wild, lightning-delayed 47-41 overtime affair against Pikeville, Ky.

This will be a brisk, busy week for the Blue Bears. Shortly after midnight Wednesday, they’ll be rolling on a bus toward Jacksonville. It’s a trip of 425 miles, nearly seven hours by car, and more by bus.

“We’ll get down there on Thursday and we’ll be able to relax a bit and get our feet before we play,” Williams said.

Williams is a lot less concerned about the travel-distance than the first five minutes of Saturday’s game.

“We need a fast start offensively,” he said. “It’s important for this team to be successful early.”

There was a nip in the air Wednesday morning, and the first hints of football weather are always medicine for a football coach.

Williams said he felt like Phil Mickelson on the verge of his first major title. He was upbeat and confident that his first victory as a college head coach is just around the corner.

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