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Livingstone suffers 49-0 loss to Bowie State

By David Shaw

For the Salisbury Post

SALISBURY — Go ahead and exhale, Livingstone football fans.

Saturday’s 49-0 loss to Bowie State may have been difficult to watch, but it didn’t scare first-year coach Sean Gilbert.

“You’re playing a veteran team, a tough team,” he said, shortly after the winless Blue Bears dropped their fourth straight game and CIAA opener. “They’re a contender. They know how to compete. We’re a young team that’s learning how to compete. We’re going to take some lumps like this.”

Livingstone took a bunch of them against the visiting Bulldogs (3-1, 1-0), league champions in 2018 and 2019. It barely had time to wipe its feet on the conference welcome mat when the guests drove for touchdowns on each of their first four possessions and mounted a 33-0 advantage by halftime.

“It’s a story of two halves,” freshman linebacker Jaden Echols said. “In the first quarter they came out and hit us before we hit them. They fired off and brought more energy. In the second half, we stopped all that.”

Winning coach Damon Wilson made the scariest statement after BSU limited the Blue Bears to five first downs and 72 yards total offense. “It’s good to get a win here on the road, but we haven’t played a complete ballgame yet,” he explained. “There are a lot of areas we need to correct in order to get where we want to go.”

Don’t tell that to the sun-splashed crowd at Alumni Stadium. Bowie State brought an offensive line that looked like it could do this for a living, then bulldozed through LC’s soft defense for 21 first downs, 197 rushing yards and another 139 through the air. The Bulldogs also scored TDs on a second-quarter fumble return and a fourth-period punt return. BSU quarterback Ja’rome Johnson threw for two touchdowns and ran 31 yards for a score before the first quarter expired. But even that didn’t impress Wilson.

“I think he’s playing inconsistent right now,” said the 12th-year head coach. “He missed a couple reads, but he did make the plays he needed to. ”

Johnson completed eight of 18 passes, including a 47-yarder to freshman Shaun Waller in the fourth quarter.  LC starting QB Lazarus exited with an injury after being face-masked on a sack two minutes into the second stanza. Junior Lamontay Carr relieved, but never advanced the Blue Bears into the red zone.

“We were down 27 points when I got in the game,” Carr said after Livingstone managed only 14 yards rushing. “There was a little spark for a while. But we just couldn’t adjust up front. They kept giving us different looks — these stunts and switches — that made it hard. There was always somebody unblocked coming in free.”

Bowie State extended its gait in the fourth quarter. Alen Omerhodzic’s 32-yard field goal, Kwincy Hall’s 50-yard punt return for a touchdown and Kevon Campbell’s short TD run in the final minute provided a convincing closing argument.

Afterward, Gilbert — a former NFL defensive tackle for the Rams, Redskins, Panthers and Raiders — conceded Livingstone has work to do.

“We’re realistic about these labor pains we’re having,” said Gilbert. “I’ve said it before, we’re birthing a baby. We’re building a program and establishing a foundation. It’s gonna hurt if you care. For us, we’ve got to take these lumps and grow from them.

NOTES: Livingstone visits Elizabeth City State next Saturday afternoon and celebrates homecoming when St. Augustine’s visits on Oct. 9. … Bowie State was 8-for-15 on third-down conversion tries. The Blue Bears were 0-for-13 and punted 11 times. … Safety Terrance McPherson Jr. led LC’s defense with 10 tackles. … Carr and Anderson were each sacked twice.

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