Sep. 18—DURHAM — Rarely does a college football team get to enjoy an offensive performance like the one North Carolina Central had in Saturday night's 45-27 victory over the University of New Hampshire.
At times it seemed like N.C. Central could do whatever it wanted against a UNH defense that allowed a respectable 44 points in the team's first two games, both of which were against Colonial Athletic Association opponents. The Eagles (3-0) scored 21 points in the first quarter, seven in the second, 10 in the third and seven in the fourth.
Whenever UNH (2-1) scored, N.C. Central answered.
"We're not going to let it define us," said UNH linebacker Bryce Shaw, who recorded a team-high 10 tackles in the loss. "You have to have a short-term memory. Football is an 11-game season, so we have to learn from this, take it on the chin and keep grinding."
It wasn't just the 45 points the Eagles scored, either. It was how they got there. N.C. Central converted 12 of 15 third-down situations — the Eagles were 9-for-9 in that category at one point — and scored on each of their five trips to the red zone.
"These guys are good, man," N.C. Central coach Trei Oliver said. "I've been trying to tell people that we have an explosive offense. ... For us to be 12 of 15 on third-down conversions and 5 of 5 in the red zone? That's incredible. That's incredible. I thought we had a good game plan and these guys played their butts off."
Quarterback Davius Richard was UNH's biggest problem. He ran for 140 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, and completed 18 of 27 passes for 194 yards and two TDs.
"Davius Richard was the best player on the field," UNH coach Rick Santos said. "We just simply couldn't get a stop. He was just tremendous.
"They beat us up up front. In particular our defensive line couldn't get to the quarterback. I just think it was their quarterback making plays. We missed some tackles. That hurt us last week (against Albany) and this week as well."
N.C. Central converted on five third-down situations during an 11-play drive in the second quarter that ended with the team's fourth touchdown. Richard picked up two of the five first downs by scrambling. His biggest run may have been a 12-yard gain on a third-and-9 play from the UNH 20-yard line. Two plays later the Eagles were in the end zone.
"It's hard (on a defense) when you have a quarterback that can run the football," Oliver said. "If you want to play two-high safeties you're usually going to have problems stopping the quarterback run game. We thought it was there throughout the week and they gave us some looks that we took advantage of. Again, the guys executed."
Oliver said running the ball and stopping the run would be the keys for his team, and the Eagles did a good job of both. N.C. Central gained 205 yards on 41 rushing attempts, and limited the Wildcats to 65 yards on the ground (23 carries).
UNH trailed 14-0 after N.C Central returned an interception for a TD in the first quarter. Santos said the early deficit prevented the Wildcats from running the ball as much as he would have liked.
Even though it scored a defensive touchdown, N.C. Central had possession of the football for 35 minutes and 19 seconds.
"That's where it starts, up front with the bigs, and I thought we controlled the game and the time of possession," Oliver said. "That was huge to keep their offense off the field by running the football. It's hard to beat folks when you can't run the ball."
UNH will attempt to reverse course when it travels to Towson on Saturday. The Tigers have played three non-conference games and will enter Saturday's contest with a 2-1 record.
"I think it was a wakeup call for us that showed a little complacency that we may have had during the week," UNH quarterback Max Brosmer said. "It's a really good lesson for a team. I guarantee that we bounce back next week."