CHARLOTTE — Livingstone is clearly on the road to Good Enough — it just didn’t get there Saturday.
The Blue Bears enjoyed shining moments on both sides of the ball at Memorial Stadium, where they fell 34-17 to Johnson C. Smith in the annual Commerative Classic. But the plays they didn’t make are what spoiled coach Daryl Williams’ debut.
“We let mistakes decide the football game,” Williams said after LC dropped its season-opener. “We didn’t meet the standard. It’s hard to meet it and beat a good football team with all the mistakes we made.”
Williams has no appetite for turnovers — and the Blue Bears suffered three that led to J.C. Smith points. The Golden Bulls also scored two second-quarter touchdowns on passes to wide-open receivers.
“Blown coverages,” linebacker Kenneth White said after making nine tackles. “And bad assignments. We started this game way too slow on both sides.”
LC’s troubles began on its fourth play from scrimmage. Facing fourth-and-inches from its own 34-yard line, quarterback Drew Powell mishandled a snap and Smith’s Frantz Charles pounced on the fumble.
“That’s something basic, quarterback exchange stuff we do every day for 45 minutes in practice,” Williams said. “The ball just slipped out of his hands. We had a lack of focus in the first half.”
Smith, meanwhile, enjoyed the windfall. Winning quarterback Andrew Alexander — a tall junior who replaced suspended starter Keahn Wallace under center — passed for 182 yards and three touchdowns, including a 28-yard completion to unguarded Fred Scott that made it 10-0 early in the second period.
“We’re not perfect,” sophomore linebacker Dijonne Williams said. “We had some blown coverages. It just means we’ve got to work harder next time. We’ve got to minimize our mistakes.”
LC’s defense made another one with 6:33 remaining in the first half. This time Alexander rolled out to his right and lofted a 12-yard fade-away pass that Scott grabbed in the end zone — without a defender in the immediate vicinity.
Trailing 27-3 as the third quarter unfolded, Livingstone finally reached the end zone while Powell watched from the sideline. He suffered a cramp after busting a 24-yard run to JCS 18 with 8:43 on the clock. West Rowan grad Zay Laster relieved and handed off to Justin Forte, who tossed a 10-yard option pass to wideout Jalen Hendricks for LC’s first touchdown of the season. “They came in and did the right thing,” said Powell.
Livingstone trimmed its deficit to 27-17 in the fourth quarter, thanks largely to a well-executed fake punt. Facing fourth-and-a-cab ride from the 36, White — the Blue Bears’ up-man in punt formation — took a snap and rumbled 47 yards down the right sideline.
“I was a running back in high school,” said White, the state’s No. 5-rated tailback out of South Brunswick High School in 2010. “So I had no problem with that.”
Two snaps later Powell hit Miles Harris with a 20-yard TD strike over the middle. Smith closed the scoring following a final LC giveaway in the concluding moments.
“Coach Williams is doing a good job changing the mindset of the program and the college,” said winning coach Steve Aycock. “Hopefully they’ll have better days going forward.”
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