Trei Oliver proved he still has some moves, just like his playing days, ducking out from the first of two attempts to give him a Gatorade bath.
North Carolina Central got in the win column after three weeks of play, defeating Division II Elizabeth City State University, 45-7, Saturday afternoon at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium.
The Eagles won big despite racking up 16 penalties for 141 yards. The victory gives N.C .Central (1-3) eight consecutive wins over CIAA opponents since becoming a full-time Football Championship Subdivision member in 2010.
“Again, way too many penalties,” Eagles coach Oliver said after the game, his black shirt drenched from the postgame celebration. “But I’m happy for them. As much as they’ve been through and the way we started, I’m just really happy for our guys. Their hard work and attitude really paid off.”
The Eagles finished with 391 yards of total offense and held the Vikings (0-3, 0-1) to just 91. The last time NCCU held a team under 100 yards in a game was 2009, when the Eagles held Central Methodist to 93 yards. NCCU had nearly twice that many by the end of the first quarter, maybe finally solving their scoring woes.
“We knew we could do it,” Oliver said about scoring inside the 20. “We looked at what we were doing and who we were doing it with. It wasn’t play-calling, it was all about execution.”
NCCU jumped out to a 24-7 halftime lead, finding the end zone after scoring one touchdown in its previous three games. The offense hadn’t struck pay dirt since the fourth quarter of the season opener, but freshman Davius Richard hit Tyler Barnes on an 8-yard touchdown four minutes into the game.
It was the first of two touchdown passes for Richard in the first half. Midway through the second quarter Richard connected with Latrell Collier from 10 yards out, putting the home team up 17 at the break.
Junior running back Isaiah Totten had a 43-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
“The whole week we emphasized zone read,” Richard said. “It was good to see that it worked. We just have to build on the momentum.”
Richard, in his second start in a row, completed 17-of-24 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns. The rookie from Belle Glade, Florida, connected with 11 different receivers as the Eagles topped the 40-point mark for the first time since scoring 52 on Edward Waters last November. Three of those receivers — Ryan McDaniel, Collier and Tyler Barnes — all caught a touchdown.
Redshirt junior Jordan Freeman also scored on a 43-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, finishing with 68 yards on five carries.
Coming into Saturday’s contest, the Eagles scored just 25 points in three games, but topped that mark 20 seconds into the third quarter. Jerome Foster picked off a Kedrick Patterson pass and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown, giving the home team a 31-7 lead.
Foster’s pick gave NCCU a MEAC-leading seven interceptions this season. The defense lived in the Vikings backfield, sacking Patterson and Kevin Caldwell a combined seven times (the most since 2012) and finished with 14 tackles for loss.
Senior defensive end Darius Royster led the defense with seven tackles, two sacks and three of the 14 stops behind the line of scrimmage.
“Just everybody having fun, that’s what it comes down to,” Royster said. “We were just feeding off each other’s energy. Just dominate every play and try to cause havoc in the backfield. That’s what we were trying to do.”
Oliver had a hint that things would go well based on practice last week.
“We know we have a good football team, and we didn’t play well the first three games,” Oliver said. “We knew the first three games, the first three loses didn’t define this football team. When I saw the guys this week, that was the best week of practice we’ve had since fall camp. They were really focused.”