College Football: Livingstone Notebook – Freshmen stand out
By Nick Bowton
The Livingstone notebook …
Livingstone doesn’t have to look too hard to determine the brightest spot on its ultra-young roster.
The Blue Bears’ starting defensive unit consisted of mostly freshmen again this past week against Shaw, and again the same core group of freshmen stood out.
Freshman linebacker Robert Massey-Brice was credited for 18 tackles, returned an interception for a touchdown, forced a fumble and was named CIAA linebacker of the week. Earlier this season, Massey-Brice was named rookie of the week.
Devonta Harmon, meanwhile, intercepted another pass and now has five on the season, good for second in the conference. Brandon Rousseau also intercepted a pass, his third.
“That helps,” said freshman linebacker Justin Johnson, who’s fifth on the team in tackles. “Once we see one freshman make a play, it’s like, ‘We can make the same play.’ ”
Of the Blue Bears’ top five leading tacklers, four are freshmen. First-year players have accounted for 12 of Livingstone’s 14 interceptions as well.
“Those guys work extremely hard,” coach Lamonte Massie said. “We got some picks, some tipped passes by the linebackers. Across the board, our whole defensive unit, we have nine freshmen, a sophomore and a senior. That’s our starting defense for the most part.
“We’re not getting our heads popped upside the wall like we did last year. Guys are being extremely competitive.”
POOCH AND POWER: Livingstone kicker/punter Dominic Piscitello had a busy afternoon Saturday, as he punted a season-high 13 times against Shaw.
Piscitello’s first punt went 66 yards. He also punted out of a field-goal formation. Instead of a 47-yard field goal, the Blue Bears had Piscitello take the direct snap and pooch a kick to about the Shaw 5-yard line.
“Piscitello has been smart doing the things he has,” Massie said. “He’s back there under heavy pressure and is just as cool as a cucumber, gets the job done.”
QB UPDATE: Steve Williams struggled against the Shaw pass rush, as he was sacked a season-high 12 times, just two shy of the Division II record.
Williams finished 13-of-45, and Massie said he will continue to keep both Williams and Bryan Aycoth in the picture at quarterback. Massie said Williams will likely start this week but that he will use both quarterbacks in one game more than he has thus far.
AFTER FURTHER REVIEW: Massie said after the Shaw game that receivers not getting into their routes quickly enough had as much to do with the 12 sacks as anything, but he admitted Wednesday that blocking had something to do with the problem as well.
“We just weren’t aggressive enough,” he said. “We had some three-step protection issues. We let some interior defensive linemen just play in the backfield. They had a pretty good guy in Louis Ellis, who was giving us a hard time.
“We just couldn’t stop him and his adjacent defensive tackle.”