By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
It seemed like old times — well, relatively old. Brian Novak threw for 271 yards and three touchdowns in a triumphant return to a starting role at quarterback, Calvinaugh Jones ran for 115 yards and two scores, and the Concord University defense was stellar in a 44-6 victory over the University of Virginia’s College at Wise on Saturday afternoon at Callaghan Stadium-Shott Field.
Novak said he is “100 percent” recovered from a concussion three weeks ago. “I was just ready to play today. I just wanted to come out here and give it everything I had,” he said.
Five times, the Highland Cavaliers from UVa-Wise (1-8, 1-6 Mountain East) went three-and-out on offense. Riyahd Richardson grabbed his 13th career interception, and fellow senior Josh Clark picked off two passes in the second half for Concord (7-2, 6-1).
Special teams star Russell Bailey said, “It was a crucial win today. We knew we had to come in and dominate ... and that’s what we did from beginning to end, today.”
Andy Ellington tied his school record set earlier this year with a 48-yard field goal, one of three for the day. His only miss was a 59-yard attempt at the end of the first half that coach Garin Justice likened to a “Hail Mary.” He converted all five extra-point kicks.
Keith Ferguson blocked an early UVa-Wise field-goal try. Six of Andrew Huska’s nine kickoffs were touchbacks, and his four punts averaged 44 yards.
Justice summed the day up as a “good, decisive, solid, all-three-phases, football win. We’ll take those every week.”
Linebacker Ervin Moore said, “If we can put it all together, all four quarters, we’ll be a successful team.” Moore had four tackles for loss, including his sixth sack of the year.
UVa-Wise coach Dewey Lusk said, “Concord’s got a great football team. We hung in there and kept battling today and kept trying. Our kids will. We’ve got West Liberty and Fairmont State left, and we’re going to go get after them next week.”
Highland Cavaliers senior James Long was among the receiving leaders in NCAA Division II. He caught nine passes for 76 yards, several catches coming late in the game with substitutes in the Concord defense.
Clark said, “We knew we had an advantage defensively over them. They have two good receivers ... statistically on top of the conference, on top of the nation, but that’s about all they had, really.”
“We trusted our defensive line to stop the run, so we were just basically free back there to play and control those guys. ... I think they tried to test us vertically, but we kind of shut that down.”
Lusk said, “James Long has been phenomenal. It’s very evident we have struggled running the football this year, and we are going to 16 (Long) and we’re going to No. 7 (Terrence Younger). Everybody knows it. But they still seem to make great catches.”
Justice said, “We wanted to try and take those guys away on the outside. To do that, we had to get a good pass rush, which I felt we did. We kept the quarterback uncomfortable. And we had a lot of safety help over top (and we were able to) high-low those wideouts.”
The visiting quarterbacks combined to go 16 for 32 passing for 164 yards, while the running game managed 42 net yards.
Concord countered with a balanced offense that ran for 139 yards and passed for 271. All five of its trips to the red zone produced points, a marked improvement from recent weeks.
“Andy started kicking the ball a lot better, and offensively we were able to finish,” Justice said. “We were able to protect Brian up front, and Brian was able to make the good decision, and make throws.”
The coach noted that Novak logged his first multi-touchdown college outing. “That’s a big milestone for him,” Justice said. “He had a great day.”
Tiko Henderson caught six passes for 109 yards. He rang up a 32-yard touchdown when he fought off a defensive back in the end zone to snag a nicely-thrown ball from Novak.
Darrick Williams had five receptions for 84 yards and two scores.
“They’re both great receivers,” Novak said. “We went out there and executed, and everything just kind of fell into place.”
Turning to Jones in a once-again-reliable run game provided the other offensive dimension.
Novak said, “We feel like we can’t be stopped in the run, and we know Calvinaugh is a great back, so we wanted to get the ball in his hands and keep moving the chains.”
“Being multiple, now ... it makes it unbelievably hard for teams to scheme for us, next week and the week after. It puts us in a great position to succeed.”
Justice said, “We’re big on rushing yardage, and taking care of the football, and we did both of those things effectively today.”
Based on Novak’s early-season inconsistency and his recent absence from action, Lusk was prepared for a different Concord offense.
The Highland Cavaliers coach said, “They threw the ball well today, Concord really did. We were expecting run run run run run run, and they had some nice pass plays.”
The Mountain Lions led 27-0 at halftime. Ellington’s record-tying kick late in the fourth quarter, set up by Clark’s 33-yard interception return, pushed the lead to 44-0.
UVa-Wise scored midway through the fourth quarter on a pass that Cullen LeVoi dropped into the back corner of the end zone to Younger. A botched extra-point try kept the score 44-6.
The personable Lusk has been upgrading his program to compete in NCAA Division II after starting out in the Appalachian Athletic Conference of the NAIA.
Lusk said, “This whole D-2 thing is a process. We’ve learned a lot, coming up from the NAIA. It’s a much more physical (game). Offensive and defensive lines, there in the trenches, it’s so much different.”
“We’re learning. Thirty-three of our 44 on our two-deep are redshirt freshmen, freshmen and sophomores.”
“We also understand the process, and the steps that we need to take. It’s very difficult to walk out here in your first year, with as many young kids as we have, and win a bunch of football games.”
He said UVa-Wise is pleased to have been accepted into the new Mountain East Conference to which Concord now belongs as well. “We’re working to get better and hopefully become more competitive over the next couple of years,” Lusk said.