Bears Drop Third Straight; Lose to Benedict 23-17
[Columbia, SC] - Shaw turned over the ball four times and fell to homestanding Benedict 23-17. With the loss, the Bears open the season 0-3 - the first time they've opened the season with three losses since football was reinstated in 2003.
"We just have to finish plays," said Shaw head coach Darrell Asberry. "We looked real good in practice this week, but the turnovers and penalties hurt us today."
True freshman quarterback Homer Causey, Jr. threw three picks including one in the end zone, and the Bears added a fumble for four turnovers on the game. The Tigers took advantage, scoring two touchdowns off the turnovers. Causey spent much of the game scrambling away from tacklers, and was sacked six times.
"Homer did fine for us today," said Asberry. "It's our senior wide receivers who have to finish their plays and step up in situations like this."
While the Tigers amassed 98 yards passing, they connected on only three passes - with one going 70 yards for a touchdown, and another 20 yards for a touchdown. Other than that, Benedict's offense came on the ground, with 168 yards.
Shaw controlled the game in the first quarter, holding the ball for over nine of the 15 minutes, but their only real scoring chance came on a 21-yard field goal attempt that went wide right.
In the second, Shaw struck quickly, taking three plays to go 80 yards, including a Causey 40-yard strike to Tyrone Craig, followed two plays later by a 39-yard pass to Derrell Person for a 7-0 lead.
On the very next possession, Benedict's Harlon Samuels connected with Emmanue Houston, who then scrambled for 70 yards to tie the score at seven.
On Shaw's next possession, the Bears went backwards 15 yards, giving the Tigers a very short field. Benedict took ten plays, but penalties kept them going the wrong way, finally finishing the drive with a 37-yard field goal. The Tigers took the 10-7 lead into the locker room at the half.
On their first drive of the second half, the Bears went for it on fourth and four, but Causey was intercepted by Gregory Smith. Starting on their own 45, the Tigers took advantage of 20 yards in Bear penalties. Backup quarterback Simeon Kelly came in for the last half of the drive and connected with Houston on a 20-yard pass for the touchdown. Shaw's Jhawonn Myers blocked the extra point, leaving the score at 16-7.
On their opening drive of the fourth, the Bears drove 71 yards from the 20, but could not cross the final nine yards, settling instead for a 26-yard Shepherd field goal.
After forcing a Benedict punt, the Bears got the ball back, with a chance to take the lead, but two plays into the drive, Craig caught a Causey pass, but fumbled the ball, giving the Tigers possession on the Shaw 34. Anthony Jemison dashed for 30 yards for the Tigers before Houston added another four-yard rush to give Benedict the 23-10 lead.
The Bears then built a drive of their own, with James Langford rushing and Causey hitting Malik Cross for a 21-yard advance. With the ball at the Benedict 28, Causey threw a strike into the end zone, but the Tigers' Jeremy Vaughn made the catch, giving Benedict the ball with 3:24 left on the clock.
Two plays later, Shaw's Rico Brown forced a fumble and recovered it on the Benedict 34. Causey threw for 28 yards and Langford rushed for another six, scoring on a three-yard run that made the score 23-17, but leaving only 1:29 on the clock. The Tigers were able to kneel on the ball and run out the clock for the win.
The Bears racked up 114 yards on the ground, 76 of those in the second half. Langford had 60 yards rushing to lead the Bears. Causey finished the game with 232 yards on 16 for 31 passing, but giving up three interceptions. Craig was the leading receiver with three catches for 55 yards.
For the Tigers, Samuels was two for nine for 78 yards. He was also Benedict's leading rusher with 68 yards. Houston had only two catches, but they were for 70 and 20 yards. Defensively, Sarnie Johnson, Jamaa Massaline and Justin Shaw had eight tackles apiece.
After three straight weeks on the road, the Bears come home next week, hosting CIAA conference opponent Elizabeth City State.
"We've got to finish plays," said Asberry of next week's game. "And we've got to remember that we're the defending champs."
Kickoff is at 2:00 p.m. at Durham County Memorial Stadium.
Photos: Darius Gullette brings down a Tiger runner (left); Derrell Person hauls in a pass for a touchdown (right)