College Football: Virginia State 37, Livingstone 7
By David Shaw
Nothing went according to the script for Livingstone’s football team in Saturday night’s season-opener at Alumni Stadium.
The game plan devised by fourth-year coach Lamonte Massie and his staff needed an immediate rewrite in a 37-7 loss to Virginia State.
“There were a lot of things we did well,” Massie said after the Blue Bears were outgained 464-254. “But the mistakes we did make were extremely costly. It was almost like cutting your own jugular vein.”
Livingstone, which hopes to improve last fall’s 3-7 overall record, began bleeding when VSU returned the game’s opening kickoff 50 yards to the LC 45. Seven plays later the guests took a 7-0 lead when wideout Brian Berry ó a pre-season, third-team All-American ó skittered 11 yards for a touchdown on an end-around play.
“We just got on them early,” said winning coach Andrew Faison. “We thought we could get up fast and wear them down.”
The Blue Bears showed promise but came up empty on their first possession. Senior quarterback Steven Williams (19-for-33, 188 yards) guided them to midfield, then completed a 32-yard pass to running back Jamel Moore down the right sideline. But Moore was gang-tackled and fumbled the ball away.
“We got so excited on that play,” Williams said. “And that’s probably what was going through Jamel’s head. He knows he’s got to hang on to the ball.”
Massie felt the turnover was a watershed moment. “Our game plan was to run those type of plays,” he said. “We’re so much faster than we’ve been since I’ve been here. But we can’t survive if we turn the ball over.”
When Virginia State drove 77 yards on 10 plays to go up 14-0 late in the first quarter, Livingstone was forced to alter its course. It spent the rest of the night playing catch-up.
“You always have a game-plan,” Williams said. “Sometimes things happen that change your approach and set you off track. Even though there were some very bright spots, we weren’t all together today.”
VSU was. The Trojans played combat-ready defense, sacking Williams three times and limiting LC to 66 yards rushing. Virginia State’s offense was just as dominant. It converted six of 10 third-down plays and cashed in on each of its five red-zone opportunities. Led by Newberry transfer Antwain Lyde (145 straight-ahead yards, two TDs), Virginia State rumbled for 230 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Quarterback Leonard Johnson was the best marksman on the field, completing 13 of 15 attempts for 234 yards and a third-quarter score. Most damaging were a pair of 54-yard completions, including one on a desperate, third-and-20 play from his own 18.
“We had a breakdown on our rollout coverage,” Massie said. “When we get a scramble deal, certain people are supposed to go to certain locations. Evidently, we didn’t roll it right.”
Yet nothing the Trojans did surprised the LC defense.
“It’s not something we haven’t seen before,” noted defensive back Akeem Deloatch. “We just didn’t execute as a unit. On first and second downs we had great stands. On third down we just gave up. That can’t be. Next week we’ll dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s.”
If nothing else, the Blue Bears saved their best for last. Williams capped an impressive 12-play, 80-yard drive by feathering an 11-yard touchdown pass to freshman Jeremy Hughes with no time remaining. “We were determined to get in the end zone,” Williams said. “We weren’t gonna leave with zero on the board.”
NOTES: Hughes (five receptions, 40 yards) and Moore (four for 81) were Livingstone’s top receivers. … Deloatch led the defense with 91/2 tackles. … The Blue Bears play Savannah State next Saturday in Greenville, S.C. and travel across town to Catawba on Sept. 12.
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