BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.- North Carolina Central University and Gardner-Webb University combined for eight turnovers, with NCCU collecting three interceptions and two fumble recoveries, but the host Bulldogs took better advantage of their takeaways for a 21-12 victory inside Spangler Stadium on Saturday night.
NCCU amassed 399 yards of total offense, compared to 342 total yards by GWU, and the Eagles made five trips into the red zone, but had to settle for three field goals by freshman kicker Adrian Olivo, who added a 40-yard boot to account for all 12 points by the Eagles.
The NCCU defense set the tone early with a forced fumble on the Bulldogs first play from scrimmage. On the ensuing drive, freshman quarterback Davius Richard led the team into field goal range, where Olivo put the Eagles up 3-0 early.
After multiple turnovers and defensive stops by both teams, GWU scored on a touchdown run by quarterback Kalen Whitlow on the first play of the second quarter.
NCCU answered with another Olivo field goal with 11:39 left in the second quarter to pull the Eagles to within one point at 7-6.
The teams then traded turnovers before Olivio added his third field goal of the half, this time a 40-yarder at the horn to put the Eagles up 9-7 at the half.
After intermission, GWU’s Jaylen Cagle rushed for a score at the 10:18 mark in the third quarter to make it 14-9 Bulldogs.
Both defenses held strong until Olivo kicked his fourth field goal of the night for NCCU, narrowing the deficit to two points with 6:29 left in the game. On the following drive, Cagle broke away for a 65-yard touchdown run to push the Bulldogs lead to 21-12 at 5:28.
Senior defensive back Stephen Stokes led the Eagles in tackles with seven and an interception, while sophomore defensive back Manny Smith tallied six tackles.
On offense, Richard finished his first career start throwing for 242 yards while completing 23 of 46 passes. He also threw three interceptions.
The Eagles rushing attack was spearheaded by junior Isaiah Totten, who finished with 79 yards on 21 carries. Richard also contributed to the running game with 39 yards, while junior Jordan Freeman added 29 yards.
Sophomore wide receiver Tyler Barnes led NCCU in receiving with seven catches for 75 yards.
The GWU offense was led by Cagle with 141 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Quarterbacks Jordan Smith and Whitlow combined for 146 passing yards for the Bulldogs. They also threw for three interceptions.
Darie Reynolds led the GWU defense in tackles with 13.
Next week, NCCU (0-3) will host Elizabeth City State University in its home-opener at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium. GWU (1-2) travels to Wofford.
Courtesy: NCCU Athletics