Livingstone wins home opener over Elizabeth City St., 27-16

Published 11:41 pm Saturday, September 14, 2019

By David Shaw

SALISBURY — For years, Livingstone’s football team has been getting kicked around by opponents near and far. This year, it’s kicking back.

The latest piece of evidence was submitted Saturday at Alumni Memorial Stadium, where the unbeaten Blue Bears topped Elizabeth City State, 27-16, for their second victory.

“Man, it feels good to be on the winning side, even if we did make a lot of mistakes,” seventh-year coach Daryl Williams said. “I’m proud that we’re 2-0 and happy that we have a chance to go 3-0 next week.”

It’s Livingstone’s best start since 2014, when it won its first four games before finishing 5-5. Williams has the Blue Bears’ engine humming — warts and all —and everyone is singing along.

“It’s really a good feeling,” senior Ian Tyler said, outside a locker room littered with post-game chatter. “But it’s nothing to brag about. We didn’t play a real good game. We had a lot of missed tackles and a general lack of energy.”

Some of that could be overlooked after LC amassed 353 yards total offense, while its defense held ECSU (0-2) to 205 yards and forced three turnovers. Quarterback Miles Hayes — the CIAA’s reigning Quarterback of the Week — showed continued improvement, completing 15 of 25 passes for 210 yards and his fourth touchdown of the season. Playing behind a solid offensive line, he helped the Blue Bears win the time-of-possession battle by more than 11 minutes.

“This game was a test of how well we could adjust,” Hayes said. “We were prepared for all the blitzing they threw at us and we overcame a lot of own mistakes.”

Hayes put Livingstone ahead, 7-3, late in the opening quarter, when he spiraled a 54-yard TD pass Jaylen Askew after rolling out to his right. “It was a double-move route,” he said. “I had to buy some time and make the cornerback choose between chasing me or playing the deep ball. He came after me, so I threw it downfield.”

By halftime, the Blue Bears had a 10-3 lead, thanks to the first of two Antoine Akundu field goals. The game’s watershed moment came as the third period unfolded. ECSU returned the second-half kickoff to the Livingstone 10-yard line, only to have the play nullified by a pair of 15-yard penalties. On first down, from his own 13, Vikings’ quarterback Kevin Caldwell was pressured out of the pocket and lost possession when LC defensive end Ziah Gibson stripped the ball. His teammate, Tyler, a strong safety on the play, recovered the ensuing fumble in the end zone.

“The defensive end was unblocked by design,” said disappointed Elizabeth City coach Anthony Jones. “He did a good job and played the ball. But we told our quarterback if the play wasn’t there, and you’re gonna stay home, just throw it away. Sometimes the defensive end doesn’t chase.”

Gibson said he chose to attack Caldwell, rather than play it safe. “We needed a three-and-out or a turnover,” he said. “I thought (Caldwell) would have thrown it away when he saw me. But the fullback did a kick-out route, the tackle went down and I squeezed through. I was already in position, so I chased him down.”

The touchdown was Tyler’s first as a college player. “I read the rollout, the play-action,” he said. “(Caldwell) wanted to hit a receiver, but I stopped the receiver and took him out of the play. He had no one else to throw to.”

Later in the third quarter, Hayes guided a 15-play, 85-yard scoring drive that chewed nearly nine minutes off the clock. An unsportsmanlike conduct call against ECSU on third-and-6 extended the drive and led to Akundu’s 23-yard field goal. “Penalties, lack of discipline, dropped balls, missed tackles, turnovers and self-destruction,” Jones spewed afterward. “Until we become a more disciplined team, we won’t beat anybody. All we’re doing is aiding and abetting.”

In the final period, a 19-yard pass from Hayes to running back Andrew Faramio sparked another time-consuming drive capped by fullback Marquis Adams’ 1-yard TD plunge.

“That’s because we have a mature offensive line,” said left tackle Jason Monroe. “We just had to stick with our guys, drive the ball down and let the running backs do the rest.”

Afterward, the Blue Bears seemed to downplay the victory and their impressive start to the season.

“Two-and-oh is a great feeling,” Hayes surmised. “But it’s just 2-0. Next week we’re 0-0 and starting all over.”

NOTES: The referees certainly earned their paychecks. Nineteen penalties resulted in totaling 221 yards were enforced and two players — Elizabeth City’s Desmond Mitchell and LC’s Brandon Duncan — were ejected. … Jones is former NFL tight end who played for the Redskins and Chargers. He appeared in Washington’s 1987 Super Bowl championship game. … The Blue Bears were 3-0 in 2015, but two of those wins were discounted due to opponents being designated “non-counters,” by NCAA standards. … Livingstone hosts Allen University next Saturday at 4 p.m.