By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Concord University has allowed only 13 points in two football games this season. The Mountain Lions’ next opponent, Bowie State University, has scored 42 and 41 points in their two contests.
Something will have to give on Saturday afternoon on the Bowie State campus, between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. — about a six-hour drive from Athens.
Concord is second nationally in NCAA Division II in creating turnovers, forcing nine in its two games. The Mountain Lions are fifth in points allowed, sixth in preventing third-down conversions by the opposition, and eighth in fewest passing yards allowed per game.
The Athenians have scored 54 points in their two outings against nationally-ranked Lenoir-Rhyne and conference foe West Virginia State.
Head coach Garin Justice talked about the team’s defense.
“We’ve had a strong defense the last few seasons and we have a lot of players back, in particular Jake Lilly, the conference defensive player of the year last year,” Justice said. “He’s our leader on defense, has had 13 tackles in each of our first two games. We also have Devon Marion and Riyahd Richardson who help form a strong nucleus that makes for a strong defense.”
Concord received 12 votes in the current Division II poll by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) but polls do not really matter for Justice and the Mountain Lions.
“It is always a compliment but polls are just other people’s opinions. We think highly of ourselves and we need to continue to win and we have to continue to take care of ourselves and not worry about those things we can’t control,” Justice said. “What we can control is how we work, how we bring our attitude to the field.”
Six Mountain Lions (2-0) contributed points in last Saturday’s 36-3 win over West Virginia State in their first Mountain East Conference game. Concord passed for 317 yards and ran for 74, while allowing 211 net yards to the Yellow Jackets.
Linebacker Jake Lilly has 26 tackles, sixth best in Division II. He also has an interception and a national-best four forced fumbles. Concord, ranked 15th in total defense in Division II, has recorded 23 tackles for loss of yardage.
Tiko Henderson is averaging 101 yards receiving per game for the Mountain Lions, tied for 48th best in Division II. Brian Novak completed 21 of 30 passes in his last outing, but was intercepted four times and sacked twice.
Senior Riyahd Richardson, who had his first interception return for a touchdown, became Concord’s all-time leader in passes defensed on Saturday. He has foiled 40 pass attempts in his college career.
The Bulldogs (1-1) lost 58-41 last Saturday at Johnson C. Smith University. Bowie State’s Jared Johnston threw for a school-record 394 yards in the loss, including two touchdown tosses to Myme Manns.
“They have athleticism. They have a quarterback who has made plays on the ground and in the air, and they have two good running backs,” Justice said. “In general they can make big plays whenever they touch the football.”
Bowie State has chalked up 1,005 total yards in two games. Their scoring offense is tied for 21st most productive nationally in Division II.
Justice continued, “They are in the CIAA, their head coach is in his fourth year. Last year they were 5-5 and had a couple of games they could have won and made their record better. They’re scary.
“Last year they beat a good Fairmont State team and lose by one to Elizabeth City State who went to the playoffs. They are good enough to beat anyone, but they can flip and lose to anyone. They are a dangerous opponent.”
While the game with the Bulldogs is a key one for the Mountain Lions, Justice pointed out there are things off the field the team must learn from this meeting.
“It’s an important game but not as important as our conference games which determine whether we make the playoffs,” Justice said. “Concord needs to learn to travel. This is our first overnight trip of the season and a lot of these guys have not been on the road overnight.
“We need to learn a lot of lessons. We are yet to win an overnight road game since I’ve been at Concord. We need to learn to travel right and get over the hump and achieve that milestone.”
Established in 1865, Bowie State is the oldest historically black institution in Maryland, and competes in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
—Bob Redd contributed to this report