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College Football: Livingstone hopes to bounce back

SALISBURY — Livingstone’s basketball teams were picked to win CIAA Southern Division championships, but it’s the LC football team that will look to do some rebounding today.
There won’t be any rims at Alumni Memorial Stadium, but there will be two end zones. The Blue Bears hope to find them frequently against CIAA rival Elizabeth City State no matter what weather conditions are like.
The original 1 p.m. kickoff has been moved up to 11 a.m. due to weather concerns related to Hurricane Joaquin.
“It’s good to be playing at home and I’m very confident we’ll bounce back,” Livingstone coach Daryl Williams said. “And I’m talking about bouncing back from two losses — one to Bowie State last week and one at Elizabeth City State last season. “They say you learn a lot from losses, but I’m not interested in becoming the smartest man in the world by losing.”
Livingstone shouldn’t have trouble moving past the setback at Bowie State. When you get thumped as soundly as the Blue Bears did (45-17), you don’t lose sleep.
“We ran into a good football team with a good quarterback and a good defense, and the mistake I made was not staying patient when we got two stops in a row when we were only down 20-7,” Williams said. “We should’ve kept running the ball, should’ve kept chipping away. Instead, I got away from the gameplan.”
Livingstone dug a permanent hole against Bowie by committing 17 penalties and losing four fumbles.
“Those fumbles came from trying to do too much,” Williams said. “The play’s over and guys are still fighting for that extra yard and fumble. It’s human nature to keep fighting, but we have to get smarter about it. We’ll do a better job securing the ball this week and we’ll clean up the penalties.”
The penalties were disappointing but correctable.
“We haven’t had that many penalties since I’ve been here,” said Williams, who has taken pride in the Blue Bears becoming a more disciplined program. “Some of our young guys may have had stage fright playing in front of that crowd at Bowie State, but we’re over it now. We’re not going to let the Bowie game beat us again.”
•••
Elizabeth City State is not an opponent Livingstone should have trouble getting up for because the Vikings drilled the Blue Bears last October. Livingstone traveled to Elizabeth City on a major roll and was receiving media attention and poll votes, but Elizabeth City State’s Vikings gave the Blue Bears a reality check in the form of a bruising 59-21 beating.
One play summed up how frustrating LC’s trip to Elizabeth City State was. A Livingstone onsides kick took a perfect hop into the arms of a Viking, and he ran it back for an easy touchdown.
“That game was one of the lowest points of last season,” LC kicker Leo Manzo said.
The Blue Bears have put in serious work in the weight room. This is one of those Saturdays, especially if the field is sloppy, when they’ll find out if they did enough.
“Elizabeth City State is a physical team,” Williams said. “But I know we’re much stronger than we were last year.”
Livingstone’s dynamic passing combination of quarterback Drew Powell and receiver Jalen Hendricks did some damage against Elizabeth City State last year. Powell was sacked five times, but he threw for 217 yards and three TDs. Hendricks had nine catches for 143 yards and two scores.
The bad stats for Livingstone were losing the turnover battle 3-to-1, allowing four TD passes and surrendering 295 rushing yards.
But that’s in the past, and now the Blue Bears (3-1 on the field, 1-1 officially) are eager to prove they can deal with a competent opponent.
“We’re all right,” Williams said. “A lot of people would like to have just one loss right now. A lot of teams would trade places with us.”
Elizabeth City State (3-1 on the field, 2-1 officially) lost 17-10 to Winston-Salem State in its last outing. Drops and penalties wrecked the Vikings, but they were stout on defense, holding WSSU’s Rams to just 79 rushing yards.
ECSU linebacker Stephen Williams was a terror against Livingstone last season, and he’s still around. He made 16 tackles against Winston-Salem State last week.
Livingstone and ECSU both beat Benedict (that one counted) and routed Virginia-Lynchburg (that one didn’t).
Livingstone is pretty banged up. Williams listed five players who have sustained injuries that likely will keep them out the rest of the season.
“It’s football and injuries happen,” Williams said. “No excuses. We’ll be ready to play and I like our chances.”

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