Shaw column: Blue Bears looking for answers
None of it made sense to Livingstone coach Lamonte Massey.
How could the Blue Bears play like a team with a raging fire in its belly in the first half and like a team with who-knows-what in the second?
“I’m dumbfounded,” the third-year coach tried to explain Saturday night, moments after LC self-destructed in the third quarter and lost 51-0 at Shuford Stadium. “All I know is the final score is not based on how well you do in a half. It’s how well you do in a whole game.”
And halfway through this much-anticipated showdown with unbeaten Catawba, Livingstone still had a pulse. For the first time since 2002, the Blue Bears didn’t resemble the guy who gets whacked in the first scene of a gangster flick.
Despite being trounced on the stat sheet, they were busy rewriting history ó holding their own on the field and trailing only 6-0 at the break.
“It wasn’t really that shocking,” running back Jamel Moore said. “We know our defense can play. We figured we were just proving everybody wrong.”
Livingstone had one of those pinch-me-I’m-dreaming first halves. Its defense limited Catawba to 60 yards rushing. Defensive tackle Edward Franklin, a 260-pound freshman, confiscated a loose ball to extinguish a second-period threat. And other than Brandon Bunn’s 36-yard touchdown reception as the opening quarter expired, no Catawba play from scrimmage produced more than a 13-yard gain.
“Everyone was upbeat at halftime. We knew we were still in the game,” sophomore DB Devonta Harmon said. “I wasn’t shocked because I knew we could play with these guys.”
Sure, but did they honestly believe they had a shot at winning this cross-town matchup for the first time?
“Of course,” strong safety Alkeem Deloatch said after making a game-high 11 tackles. “We don’t feel like we’re less talented than any other team. We’re pretty good defensively. And in the first half, we punched. In the second half they punched back.”
It was a punch you could almost see coming. If you didn’t Catawba provided several poignant examples in an explosive third quarter, when it scored five touchdowns in 10 minutes and cracked the game open.
It started with Antonio Hall’s touchdown run that capped a 54-yard following the second-half kickoff. Then Josh Wright and Hall scored on short bursts. Finally, quarterback Patrick Dennis fired a back-to-back TD strikes to Gerron Bryantó the python-armed Catawba wideout who totaled 133 yards receiving.
“It’s hard to say what happened out there,” said Deloatch. “There were broken plays and mistakes. We’ve got to learn to keep our heads up when that happens.”
Same goes for the Livingstone offense. The Blue Bears managed only 92 yards offense ó mostly on swing passes by quarterback Stephen Williams. Their ground game, if you can call it that, was non-existent.
“From my vantage point, we just didn’t block well enough,” Massey said after LC totaled minus-1 yard rushing. “It’s gonna be a challenge to find anything positive to come out this. OK, we’re finishing. Tonight we finished a whole half. But at some point we’ve got to string together four quarters of success. Then we can do some things.”
For now they’ll concentrate on the approaching CIAA season, which launches next Saturday at Bowie.
“We can’t dwell on this too long,” said Moore. “We’ve got seven conference games to worry about. We can’t let the frustration get to us and get down on each other.”
Massey won’t allow that.
“It’s my job to figure out what in the world went wrong in the second half,” he said. “You know, I was excited. The team was excited. Our coaches were excited. We came out in the second half and it’s like we layed down. Evidently we’ve got to work a little harder.”
Now that makes sense.
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