SALISBURY — Livingstone’s football team is once again running a fade pattern.
The Blue Bears appear to be going in the wrong direction after Saturday’s 40-0 CIAA loss to 16th-ranked Winston-Salem State.
“This is the process when you’re trying to build a team,” coach Daryl Williams said at Alumni Stadium, where Livingstone (2-6, 1-5) suffered its fourth straight loss. “This is what you have to go through. We’re close but yet we’re so far away.”
LC played air-tight defense in the first half, when it recovered three fumbles in WSSU territory and held the Rams (7-1, 5-0) to one touchdown.
“It’s just disappointing because they were very beatable,” linebacker Ken White said after making 11 tackles and recording his third sack of the season. “It showed in the first half. We had this team down to a T — down to the plays they were gonna run to the checks we made. We were there in position, but sometimes you’ve got to make a play.”
Winston-Salem recovered from a sluggish start and played a lights-out second half. Quarterback Rudy Johnson — whom Williams tutored in 2007 at Texas Southern — finished with 243 passing yards and four touchdowns. Most of that damage came in the third and fourth periods.
“I think they made a few minor adjustments,” said LC defensive back Justin Edwards. “But most of that was just mental mistakes by us.”
Down 7-0, a pivotal play occurred following a punt by Livingstone’s Kristo Hemphill with 9:51 remaining in the third quarter. The ball was fielded, then fumbled, by Winston-Salem State’s Sidney Lawson near the goal line. As it bunny-hopped around the lawn, Livingstone sophomore Hildon Bush confiscated the ball and fell into the end zone for an apparent game-tying touchdown.
Instead, Lawson was ruled down by contact and WSSU took over on its own 3-yard line.
“He never had full possession of the ball,” Bush tried to explain afterward. “He was going after it himself, bobbled it twice and it ended up in the end zone. How is that down by contact?”
Winning coach Connell Maynor was asked how the officials interpreted the play. “They told me the ground can’t cause a fumble,” he said. “(Lawson) had control of the ball when he went to the ground.”
The play had nightmarish consequences for the Blue Bears. Instead of rallying around the questionable call, they disintegrated like wet cardboard — yielding five second-half touchdowns. The first came on an ensuing 11-play, 97-yard scoring drive that included a costly pass interference penalty against LC.
“Those two calls were momentum changers,” Williams said. “We never recovered from them. We’re not a good enough team to overcome all that right now.”
Livingstone’s offense, anchored by a youthful OL, was so lost its picture should be posted on a milk carton. The Blue Bears had negative-9 yards rushing and 97 total yards. Starting quarterback Drew Powell was a victim of harassment — he passed for only 85 yards and was sacked six times.
“Their defense was pretty good,” Powell said after completing 10 of 30 passes. “But we had a system in place that should have helped us score. We just didn’t execute. Against teams like that you’ve got to be able to execute.”
Anthony Green was LC’s leading rusher with eight yards and thoroughbred Justin Forte managed only seven on 11 attempts.
“I tip my hat to the Winston-Salem defensive line,” Forte said. “Now we have to go back to work and get ready for Fayetteville (State). This chapter is done.”
NOTES: Livingstone celebrates homecoming next Saturday against FSU. … The Blue Bears were 1-for-17 on third-down conversions and failed on four fourth-and-ones in the first half. … Former West Rowan stars Jarvis Morgan and Zay Laster made late-game appearances. Morgan, a WSSU freshman wideout, made two receptions for 12 yards. Laster relieved Powell in fourth quarter and completed two of six passes but was intercepted three times.
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