Saturday, September 8, 2018

Wingate Too Much For Fayetteville State on Saturday Night

WINGATE – For the fifth consecutive season, the Wingate University Bulldogs have started a season 2-0. Wingate raced out to a 27-6 lead through three quarters en route to a 27-13 victory over visiting Fayetteville State University in NCAA Division II football action Saturday night at Irwin Belk Stadium. Wingate moves to 2-0 on the year, while the Broncos fall to 1-1 overall.

"Our defense played a tough physical game," head coach Joe Reich says. "I thought offensively we also did some good things. I would like to see us execute a little more consistently. It was a good win. It gives us a lot to learn from, but there were plenty of good performances as well. Fayetteville State was a much bigger, more physical team than what we faced last week. It was a step up in physicality, which will help us heading to next week's game."

In his second career start, redshirt freshman quarterback Shaw Crocker connected on 19-of-33 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns, giving him five TD passes and a TD run through two games this season. His top target was All-American BJ Muckelvene, who hauled in seven catches for 122 yards and a score. J.T. Stokes had five catches for 68 yards and a touchdown. Reigning SAC Offensive Player of the Week Domineke McNeill had 15 carries for 82 yards while adding three catches for 14 yards and a touchdown.

"I felt like Fayetteville State was a good, physical team," Reich says. "It was a good game and they gave us a good challenge. Shaw Crocker continues to take steps forward, both in practices and during games, which is good to see."

After shutting out Johnson C. Smith in the opening week, the Wingate defense nearly kept Fayetteville State out of the end zone in week two. The Broncos scored with less than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the first time a Bulldog opponent has found the end zone this season.

Joe Kelly led the defensive attack, piling up 13 tackles on the night, with Kendrick Hicks adding seven tackles. Cardell Rawlings again found himself in the offensive backfield throughout the night, with two of his six tackles going for sacks, while also adding a pair of QB hurries. Juan Pagan-Gonzalez had three tackles and an interception, with Matthew Ellis-White contributing six tackles and a pair of pass break-ups.

The Wingate special teams had another impressive outing. "Our punter was a difference maker," Reich says. "He got us out of jams. The kickers did a nice job as well. It was also good to see Ronnie Procopio break off a big return."

Reigning SAC Special Teams Player of the Week Chris Birozes averaged 44 yards on six punts, with a long of 55 and another punt downed at the two-yard line. McLean Robertson was two-for-two on field goals, connecting on a 31-yarder and 42-yarder while also going three-for-three in PATs. Procopio had a 48-yard kickoff return to start the third quarter.

Fayetteville State took the ball to start the game and capped a nine-play, 63-yard drive with a David Lamb 40-yard field goal.

Wingate answered by going 79 yards in 11 plays in its opening drive, capped by Muckelven's 24-yard TD reception from Crocker to put the 'Dogs on top 7-3. Stokes had three catches for 32 yards on the drive.

A Fayetteville State bad snap on a punt gave Wingate the ball at the FSU 12-yard line, but the 'Dogs would settle for a 31-yard Robertson field goal to take a 10-3 advantage through one quarter.

A Lamb 24-yard field goal got the Broncos within four early in the second quarter. The drive was setup by Jerome Bentley's interception, which he returned to the Wingate seven-yard line.

McNeill's 34-yard run highlighted a five-play 42-yard drive for the Bulldogs, which Robertson capped by connecting on a 42-yard field goal to make it 13-6. The Bulldogs got a chance to add to their lead with 2:40 left in the half and did not waste the opportunity, going 61 yards in seven plays. A 27-yard strike from Crocker to Stokes, followed by a 10-yard Crocker to Muckelvene connection got the 'Dogs in the red zone. Stokes found the end zone off another Shaw pass to make it 20-6 heading to halftime.

Wingate added to its lead in the opening drive of the second half, which started with Procopio's 48-yard return. McNeill went for 18 yards on the first two carries of the drive, then finished it off with an eight-yard TD reception to give the Bulldogs a 27-6 lead.

The Broncos cut the lead to 14 when Donshel Jetton scored on a 14-yard run with 2:52 to go. Jalen Brooks recovered the ensuing onside kick and the 'Dogs ran the clock out to preserve the victory.

Wingate is back in action next Saturday, hitting the road for the first time this season and opening league play, traveling to Carson-Newman, while Fayetteville State hosts Benedict.