College football: Tough homecoming opponent for Blue Bears

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 13, 2022

By Mike London

SALISBURY  — Whatever transpires the rest of the way, Livingstone’s last-minute win against Winston-Salem State will go a long way toward making this a successful season.

Every LC fan is on top of the world after Saturday brought an end to a string of futility against the Rams that had reached insane levels — 18 straight losses, a 24-year drought.

This Saturday brings all the feel-good emotions of homecoming, but it also brings Fayetteville State to Salisbury for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.

That’s not good news.

Fayetteville State has kicked sand in the Blue Bears’ collective faces almost as frequently as Winston-Salem State, and Fayetteville is a whole lot stronger than WSSU right now.

Livingstone won in overtime in 2015, but that’s the only time the Blue Bears have beaten Fayetteville State in the last 17 meetings between the CIAA schools. FSU won 34-0 against Livingstone last season, and there were times when the Broncos looked like that FSU based in Tallahassee.

Fayetteville State (4-2, 3-1) has played a tough schedule. The losses were to Wingate, one of the best in the South Atlantic Conference, and to Virginia Union.

Virginia Union is widely considered to be the best Division II HBCU in the country, so Fayetteville State’s 31-28 loss to VU was pretty impressive.

The wins for FSU have come against UNC Pembroke, Chowan, Lincoln and St. Augustine’s. Fayetteville State tore St. Augustine’s apart, to the tune of 54-0, last week, but Livingstone should be good enough defensively to avoid that sort of fate.

Still, Livingstone (2-4) will be a 23-point underdog against the Broncos (4-2, 3-1) on the new blue turf at Alumni Memorial Stadium.

FSU’s offensive numbers aren’t eye-popping, but they have a reliable kicking game (eight field goals) and the Broncos have gotten after teams defensively. They’re second in the CIAA in a lot of defensive stats.

The stat that triggers the most alarm is that Livingstone allows the most sacks in the CIAA, while Fayetteville State (21 sacks) is one of the best at sacking people.

FSU defensive end Cameron Merrell was honored as HBCU National Player of the Week when he recorded three sacks against Chowan. The bookend for Merrell, Devin Cowan, was CIAA Defensive Lineman of the Week for the UNC Pembroke game.

This will be a homecoming game for several members of the FSU program.

The right guard for the Broncos is usually North Rowan graduate Benjamin Caldwell.

Starting defensive tackle John Oxce was a mainstay for the Catawba Indians for years before transferring to FSU.

James Lott, former A.L. Brown and Clemson standout, is the assistant head coach and DBs coach for the Broncos. He did some good things at J.C. Smith before joining the Broncos in 2021.

The season is slipping away quickly. Livingstone will play at Shaw and at St. Augustine’s before hosting J.C. Smith in the season finale.