Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

September 10, 2012

Concord seeks to solve slow starts

ATHENS — In game one of the college football season, the Concord Mountain Lions gave up 21 straight points and came back to win. In game two on Saturday, CU gave up 23 in a row and wound up losing 30-22 to Winston-Salem State University.

The inability to run the ball on offense has made Concord too one-dimensional, going to the pass early and often.

Concord head coach Garin Justice said after Saturday’s loss, “We’ve got to figure out what contributes to our slow start. We came back, but it’s a shame we have to wait until late in the second half to do that.”

Indeed, Concord made a game of it during both of its outings. The Mountain Lions shook off a 21-0 deficit and scored 24 straight points to beat Lenoir-Rhyne in the opener. On Saturday CU traded touchdowns with WSSU in a memorable fourth quarter that saw 31 points scored.

Linebacker Jake Lilly said Saturday evening, “Battling back against Lenoir-Rhyne took a great team effort. We came back in the fourth quarter again [Saturday]. That shows we don’t give up.”

The conditioning and running he and his teammates did over the summer means, he said, “We’re prepared for the third and fourth quarter.”

Alignment adjustments ordered up by the coaching staff at halftime also aided Concord’s cause.

“We started shifting people around, blitzing, moving to different gaps,” he said.

The loss of Riyadh Richardson from the Concord secondary due to a foot injury was significant. Winston-Salem State’s fourth-quarter touchdowns came on passes of 73 and 9 yards from experienced Rams quarterback Kameron Smith.

Justice said Richardson was expected to have X-rays on Sunday. “He’s one of the best corners in the league,” Justice said. “He’s a playmaker. ... He also returns punts. He’s a very special player for us.”

In the middle two quarters of the game, Concord was further hampered by a heavy rain that moved in to Athens — and by not having speedy running back Andrew Gondor available. He left after seven carries with an apparent foot injury.

In the rain, Justice said, “It’s almost impossible to throw the ball well.”

He noted, “Our defense did a pretty good job of slowing ’em down. ... What we’ve got to do, we’ve got to limit the big play and make them drive the field.”

Concord limited the balanced attack of the Rams to 2.5 yards per rushing play and 18.4 yards per pass completion.

But CU ran the ball 19 times for negative-13 yards — including a 32-yard loss assessed to punter Brad Cox on a play that turned into a safety — and threw it 39 times, averaging 11.7 yards on 23 receptions.

Now it’s time for Concord to prepare for its first conference game, against a 2-0 University of Charleston team that is the only WVIAC school without a football loss in 2012.

“We’ll be back here tomorrow [Sunday],” Lilly said after the game, “and we’ll go back to work.”

Justice said that Concord’s first two games, both against North Carolina teams that won their conference championships last fall, will benefit his team in phase two of the season.

“I scheduled hard opponents on purpose,” he said. “Last year it totally paid off for us. We saw how physical you had to be.”

Concord was 0-2 at this point last year, but went on to win the WVIAC with a 7-4 record. “We saw that adversity early,” Justice said.

He would of course rather be 2-0 instead of 1-1 going into this weekend. “Now, it counts,” he said about the non-conference portion of the schedule, “but if we win the conference, we go to the playoffs.”

Concord will play its third straight home game on Saturday, with a 1 p.m. kickoff.

— Contact Tom Bone at

tbone@bdtonline.com

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