NCCU QB Michael Johnson
DURHAM — Sounding ominous just days before Halloween, N.C. Central coach
Henry Frazier III said he’s never sure whether the Eagles he sees all week at practice will be the same ones who will show up on game day.
“We’ve been Jekyll-and-Hyde all season. I really don’t know which team is going to show up,” Frazier said.
It’s as if the Eagles looked at the schedule and circled the contests they believed required their “A” games, Frazier said.
If that’s the case, it would seem Saturday’s game against Bethune-Cookman (2 p.m., nccueaglepride.com) is highlighted, because it’s homecoming, and there’s something about putting on a good show for the alums.
The Eagles better come ready to play, because Bethune-Cookman is no joke, Frazier said. The Wildcats can run it, pass it and sure enough will hit, he said.
“That 49 on defense is something else. He’s a grown man out there,” Frazier said about Bethune-Cookman defensive end Ryan Davis. “Their defense is a bunch of grown men running around.”
Last week against Norfolk State, Davis had 3.5 sacks, 11 tackles, forced a fumble and recovered another and was credited with a quarterback hurry, all of which made him not only the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week but also brought in Bethune-Cookman’s first National Football Championship Subdivsion Defensive Player of the Week award from The Sports Network/Fathead.com, given weekly to the top defender in the nation.
It’s not just Bethune-Cookman’s defense that furrows Frazier’s brow.
“Everything is of concern,” Frazier said.
NCCU’s defensive backs will have to make sure Wildcat wide receiver Eddie Poole is accounted for, and Bethune-Cookman doesn’t have just one or two running backs but a stable of them who all see time in the backfield and know what to do when they get their hands on the ball, Frazier said.
“They break tackles,” Frazier said. “We’re talking gang tackling.”
Bethune-Cookman running back Isidore Jackson last week was the MEAC Offensive Player of the Week after averaging 6.5 yards per carry and finishing with 206 yards.
“All of our running backs are capable of doing what Ike did,” Bethune-Cookman coach Brian Jenkins said.
The Wildcats (4-3) have at least five solid running backs, but if one of them particularly is doing his thing out there on the field, then that guy might get most of the carries, Jenkins said.
NCCU (1-6) has yet to win a game in the conference since returning this season as a full MEAC member.
“North Carolina Central is probably the best one-win team that I’ve seen, and I don’t mean that with any disrespect,” Jenkins said. “They’re no slouch, now.”
Jenkins said NCCU probably should have beaten South Carolina. State, a team that for years has set the standard in the MEAC.
“They had South Carolina State on the ropes,” Jenkins said.
He was referring to S.C. State’s 49-38 over the Eagles earlier this season. NCCU has lost five straight, including last week’s 30-27 overtime defeat at Hampton.
“We’re not looking at them lightly or overlooking them,” Jenkins said of the Eagles. “They’re very disciplined and sound.”
Frazier wouldn’t agree about that discipline part. The Eagles committed 133 yards of penalties in each of their last two games. Those flags have been real thorns, Frazier said.
Still, eliminate NCCU’s record and what the Eagles are is a good football team, Jenkins insisted.
“Offensively, their quarterback gets rid of the football pretty fast, and they throw the ball up and down the field on people,” Jenkins said.
NCCU’s offense is efficient and can score, the Eagles play swarming defense and overall that team just plain plays hard, Jenkins said.
Thing is, there’s no telling which NCCU ball club will show up for the game, according to Frazier.