SALISBURY — A number Livingstone head coach Daryl Williams throws around frequently is “512.”
That’s the number of yards allowed per game by Livingstone’s defense in 2012. It’s an unsightly number that placed Livingstone in the bottom tier of Division II football schools, but it’s a number the Blue Bears plan to cut down to size in 2013.
So far, so good.
The Blue Bears’ yards-allowed number currently stands at “363,” which puts Livingstone 83rd, halfway down the list, in the D-II defensive rankings. The listing of all the teams takes four pages. Livingstone is now on page 2 instead of page 4. That’s progress.
In case you’re wondering, Black Hills State, in Spearfish, S.D., is 162nd — dead-last — in the latest defensive rankings with an unfortunate “643.”
No one has confused Livingstone with Black Hills State to this point. Livingstone (1-2) actually beat Edward Waters 23-20 last Saturday with defense.
“I’m extremly proud of the whole defense and couldn’t have been happier with the way they played Saturday,” Williams said. “The defense met the standard. You must play defense to be a good team, and our defense rose to the occasion and got four turnovers. Then we blocked a field goal at the end of the game. I’ve got complete confidence in what Coach (Rodney) Hughey is doing with the defense.”
Hughey, who was an All-America defensive back in his playing days at D-II Concord, W. Va., has a tougher challenge this week, as Livingstone makes a long road trip to the Philadelphia suburbs to play the offensive-minded Lincoln Lions, led by quarterback Doug Cook.
Williams will stick with the same system that worked last week when the Bears journeyed to Jackonsville, Fla., to play Edward Waters. The Blue Bears boarded the bus shortly after midnight and were on the road in the wee hours this morning.
“There’s a lot of chatter when a road trip starts, but then it gets quiet,” Williams said. “Guys watch movies or sleep or listen to music. It’s bonding time.”
Like the Blue Bears, Lincoln is 1-2. Livingstone won this matchup a year ago in Salisbury 48-44 in a wild game that took 3 hours, 40 minutes.
Cook threw the ball 70 times against the Blue Bears in 2012 and enjoyed a career day with 463 passing yards and five TDs. Livingstone QB Drew Powell answered with 264 yards and four TD passes. Livingstone enjoyed a huge rushing edge in this matchup last season, pounding for 234 ground yards, and that made the difference.
Williams isn’t thinking 48-44 this time. He’s thinking LC’s improved defense won’t allow another shootout to happen.
“But Lincoln does have a very good quarterback, and there are some that even rate him above our guy (Powell),” Williams said. “Offensively, we did just enough last week, but I know Drew hasn’t played his best game yet, I also know our offense hasn’t played the way it’s capable of playing.”
Livingstone’s offense — and that’s Williams’ specialty — has been quiet compared to 2012. And that’s the thing. If the Blue Bears get the offense rolling to go along with their shored-up defense and improved special teams, they’ll have a reasonable chance to win on a lot of weeks in the CIAA.
Speaking of the CIAA, the Lincoln game is a conference affair.
“That makes it doubly important,” Williams said. “We can get to 2-2 and we can get to 1-1 in the league. When you win one ballgame, people can say you got lucky, but if you win two straight, then maybe you’re on to something.”
Williams said last week’s win provided a boost in enthusiasm, not just to the team, but to the campus.
“We heard that when they announced the Edwards Waters score, there was a big cheer in the cafeteria,” Williams said. “That’s important to us. We want football Saturdays to be something everyone at Livingstone really looks forward to. We want the stands full. It’s a process, but we’re building the foundation and we believe in what we’re doing.”
Williams said the team signed a gameball from the Edward Waters victory and presented it to Livingstone president Jimmy Jenkins, who was president at Edward Waters before he came to Livingstone.
“Seeing how happy Dr. Jenkins was was, that was very special for all of us,” Williams said.
If the Blue Bears can keep their yards-allowed number respectable, they may be passing out more gameballs on Saturday.
Kickoff is at 2 p.m.
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