Shaw Comeback Falls Short; Falls To ECSU 28-21
[Durham, NC] - Shaw gave up 21 unanswered points to Elizabeth City State in the first 21 minutes of the game. The Bears rallied in the fourth quarter, but came up a touchdown short, falling to the Vikings 28-21.
In the end - after a shaky first half and a third quarter quarterback change - it all came down to one set of downs in the fourth quarter. With Elizabeth City State up 28-21, the Bears made quick work of a drive downfield on the arm of backup quarterback Quinshon Odom.
With 3:07 left in the game, the Bears faced first and goal from the four-yard line. In just over a minute and a half, Odom connected with receivers in the end zone four times - but none of them scored Shaw the points they needed to complete the comeback.
First, Odom connected with Derrell Person in the left corner of the endzone, but an offensive holding penalty negated the play and moved the ball back to the 13. Another Shaw penalty on the following play made it first and goal from the 18.
Odom then connected with Bobby Holliday, who dropped the pass. An ECSU penalty negated that play and made it first and goal from the 13. This time, Odom hit Tyrone Craig in the endzone, but another holding penalty not only negated the play, but sent the Bears back to the 23-yard line.
Now sitting first and goal from the 23, an Odom pass went incomplete and then Shaw sent James Langford up the middle for two straight plays, moving the ball to the ECSU eight, but making it fourth down.
With 1:23 left on the clock, and down a touchdown, the Bears put the ball in Odom's hands again, and he nailed another receiver in the end zone, but Daniel Lee dropped the pass, giving the Vikings the ball back on downs and sealing the 28-21 ECSU win.
"It was a tough loss today," said Shaw head coach Darrell Asberry. "It was just unfortunate that we had two dropped touchdown passes by senior wide receivers. I've said it all along - those guys have got to step up and make plays. But it was a team effort and the team lost."
With the CIAA's second leading rusher, Daronte McNeill, leading the way, Elizabeth City State rolled up yards and points in the early going. In the second half, after giving up a touchdown to McNeill, the Bear defense stiffened and the Bear offense woke up - creating a team that looked little like the Bears of the first half.
"I told them that we still had one half and that the championship Shaw Bears still hadn't played yet," Asberry said. "They came out and played."
Asberry said they put one extra man in the box on defense, and made offensive adjustments - especially after a wicked hit took Causey out of the game. "We put in some packages that Odom was comfortable with. He performed extremely well. That's what he needs to do - when Homer isn't going well, he has to come in and spark the team."
Asberry says there is no quarterback controversy brewing for Shaw. "Whoever does the best this week will play, but we knew coming in that both of them would play today. This is a two quarterback system and when one is struggling, we expect the other to step in and pick up the team."
The first quarter belonged to ECSU as they held the ball for over nine minutes, including the first five minutes when they rode McNeill for 42 yards, getting them to the two, then DeAund Barfield barreled through the Shaw defensive line to give the Vikings the 7-0 lead.
The Bears looked ready to respond in short order after Malik Cross ran the kickoff back 33 yards and James Langford and Antonio Dunn each took their turns rushing and got the ball down to the two, but Dunn lost the handle on a rush and the fumble was recovered by Elizabeth City State.
Neither team was able to mount much offensively after that, until Creven Powell connected with Jermain Lindsay for a 72-yard pass that put ECSU on the Shaw one yard line as the clock hit 0:00 for the first quarter. On the very first play of the second quarter, McNeill covered the yard and gave the Vikings a 14-0 lead.
McNeill and Kevin Swain combined for the Vikings on their next possession, with Swain finally capping the 11-play 81 yard drive - all of which was covered rushing - to give them the 21-point advantage.
On the ensuing kickoff, James Langford - the nation's leading return man - took the kick and ran it back 94 yards for a Bear touchdown. The extra point was blocked, making the score 21-6, ECSU. This was the third kickoff returned for a touchdown by Langford in four games this season.
In the third quarter, the Bears gave up 94 yards of rushing, including an 11-yard McNeill touchdown run with 6:51 on the clock, that gave the Vikings a 28-6 lead.
The game changed in the fourth from the opening moments. After giving up nearly 100 yards rushing in the third, the Bears held the Vikings to only 26 yards rushing - and negative two passing - on the way to rolling up 119 yards of their own.
But the second Shaw touchdown - like the first - did not come on offense, but on special teams. With just over 14:00 left in the game, Shaw forced the Vikings to punt. The Bears blocked the punt and Jayson Royal recovered it and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown. Odom connected with Cross for the two-point conversion to make the score 28-14.
The Vikings burned 4:03 off the clock on their ensuing drive, but were not able to get the ball into the red zone. Their punt was touched back, giving Odom and the Bears the ball on their own 20. Odom threw and ran the team downfield himself, either connecting with Lee, Holliday and Craig, or rushing out of pressure for some double-digit gains. His pass to Craig with 7:09 left cut the ECSU lead to one touchdown.
The Bear defense stepped up and pushed the Vikings backwards for a yard to set up the drive that would end in four balls into the end zone, but no points.
The loss drops the Bears to 0-4 on the season - the first time that Shaw has opened a season with four straight losses since 1978, the last year before football was suspended until the 2003 season. The Vikings improve to 3-2, 1-1 in the CIAA. The loss also ended Shaw's 16-game home winning streak - a streak that stretched back to 2007.
Odom finished the game with 63 yards on six for 11 passing. Before him, Causey had gone five for 12 for 46 yards. Lee and Cross each had 38 yards receiving - Lee on five catches and Cross on three.
Langford gained 73 yards rushing for the Bears and another 106 in kickoff returns for 179 all-purpose yards.
McNeill had 181 yards rushing with two touchdowns for the Vikings. Swain finished the game with 93 yards rushing and a touchdown. Powell was five for eight for 69 yards - a 72-yard strike and four completions that went backwards three yards.
Next Saturday, the Bears host Livingstone College. Kickoff is at 1:00 p.m. at Durham County Memorial Stadium.
Photos: James Langford (left) had another kickoff return for a touchdown against ECSU and Rico Brown (right) gets one of his 11 tackles.