College football: Livingstone has a good chance to end skid

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 7, 2021

By Mike London

SALISBURY — Livingstone isn’t favored to win its homecoming football game on Saturday afternoon.

Not by the foremost prediction gurus, anyway. Livingstone (0-5, 0-2 CIAA) is listed with a 43 percent win probability to provide head coach Sean Gilbert with his first victory against St. Augustine’s (0-3, 0-1).

Livingstone’s 3-point underdog status is surprising, as the Falcons, who will be traveling from Raleigh to take on the Blue Bears at Alumni Memorial Stadium at 1:30 p.m., have played only three games and haven’t come close.

Livingstone has come oh-so-close twice and wasn’t bad at all in the second half last Saturday at Elizabeth City State. Livingstone’s defense pitched a second-half shutout, and the Blue Bears had a solid chance to win right down to the final minute of a 19-13 setback.

Livingstone has dropped 11 in a row, dating back to 2019 and hasn’t won in two calendar years now. That skid includes a 20-12 loss to St. Augustine’s in October 2019. The Blue Bears last tasted victory when they won at Lincoln on Sept. 28, 2019. The last time they were victorious at home was the week prior to the Lincoln trip when they beat Allen.

There’s never been a better time for a breakthrough. St. Augustine’s is the lowest-rated opponent Livingstone will face this season. If this one gets away, Winston-Salem State (road, Oct. 23) and Johnson C. Smith (road, Nov. 6) also look beatable, so there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

Livingstone is only playing four home games this season. This is the third. The home finale is scheduled against a very good Shaw team on Oct. 16.

The stat sheet doesn’t always paint an accurate picture, but the numbers reveal several reasons why Livingstone and St. Augustine’s have yet to get in the win column.

Converting third downs into first downs is a critical offensive indicator, and out of 163 Division II squads, Livingstone ranks 159th with a successful conversion rate of only 19.2 percent. St. Augustine’s is 161st with a 17.5 percent success rate.

The teams also possess two of the least prolific running attacks in Division II. You’re more likely to run when you’ve got the lead and these teams haven’t led much, so that’s part of it. Livingstone is 150th in Division II in rushing yards per game, while St. Augustine’s is 160th with a meager 35.7 rushing yards per game. Livingstone did run it pretty well last week. That was encouraging.

Penalties also have been an issue for the Blue Bears — 47 flags in five games for a whopping 387 yards. LC is one of the 15 most penalized teams in Division II.

A huge factor in the 0-5 start has been turnovers. With seven takeaways compared to 15 lost fumbles and interceptions, the Blue Bears are minus-8 in turnover differential.

When it comes to scoring defense, St. Augustine’s is allowing 50 points per game. That ranks 160th out of 163.

In a 33-9 loss to Virginia State last week, St. Augustine’s allowed six sacks and was held under 200 yards of offense.

The bright spot for St. Augustine’s is Deandre Proctor. He was a high school quarterback at Northeastern High in Elizabeth City, but he’s a freshman wideout for St. Augustine’s. He had six catches for 86 yards last week.

St. Augustine’s already had its own homecoming  wrecked in a big way by surging Chowan (59-12), so the Falcons would like nothing better than to spoil Livingstone’s party.

Still, there’s a good chance the Blue Bears will be celebrating after this one.