The intriguing part of playing for a new coach is that each athlete has a clean slate.
Past failures or successes have no bearing on the future, and that certainly rings true for N.C. Wesleyan’s sophomore quarterbacks after two games under coach Jeff Filkovski.
The player who performs best likely will play more than the other, and that question still needs to be answered after the Battling Bishops dropped their home opener, 24-21, in overtime to Southern Virginia on Saturday afternoon in the program’s return to the Rocky Mount Sports Complex.
N.C. Wesleyan’s offense struggled for the second consecutive week, but Filkovski isn’t looking for Dustin Midgett or Robbie Lanier to be the key to victory.
“We need to find a quarterback that wants to function,” Filkovski said. “They are both nip and tuck. We need to tighten up that position. If the guy is open, just play pitch and catch. I’m not asking them to make the big play.”
The manageable play would have been good enough for the Bishops (0-2) on an afternoon in which their defense picked off two passes and the punt return team recovered two second-half fumbles.
Instead, the offense was ineffective for most of three quarters, wasting opportunities and leaving the door open for Southern Virginia to bust down a 7-0 deficit.
The Knights scored 21 points in the fourth quarter, capped by a 75-yard blocked field goal for a touchdown with only 4:49 remaining.
Robbie Lanier passed for 225 yards and the game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion with eight seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, but he also fumbled on the third play of overtime.
“I guess I wasn’t down before I fumbled,” said Lanier, who took over for Midgett (3-for-8, 13 yards, one touchdown). “I felt like I was down, but it’s up to the refs.”
Southern Virginia’s Davis Cragun nailed a 27-yard field goal to give the Knights the victory.
The defeat was reminiscent of the Bishops’ 19-9 loss to Stevenson last week. N.C. Wesleyan led, 3-0, at halftime, but could not find enough offense in the second half to win a game it felt it should have.
Saturday, the Bishops finished with only 109 rushing yards, and only 58 from its most talented offensive player, junior running back Jacques Alston.
During one stretch of the first half, N.C. Wesleyan’s offense produced four consecutive three-and-out series.
“Our defense has been playing tough and physical,” Lanier said. “Now it’s time for our offense to get it together. They are carrying us on their back.”
N.C. Wesleyan’s defense was air-tight in the first half, but they allowed a majority of Southern Virginia’s 247 rushing yards in the second half, and the pressure it put on Knights quarterback Andy Jones in the game’s opening 30 minutes was rendered useless in the second half.
“We’re working hard out there,” said N.C. Wesleyan freshman safety Travonne Marshall, who graduated last year from Tarboro High. “We know the offense can score. We just want to keep getting off the field and giving them the ball.”
After two games, the Bishops are not a finished product, and Filkovski still is in the evaluating process.
“It’s a work in progress,” Filkovski said. “If we do what we are supposed to do, we are a pretty good football team.”
Southern Virginia 24
N.C. Wesleyan 21 (OT)
SV 0 0 0 21 3– 24
NCWC 7 0 0 6 0– 21
NCWC – Malik Adams 7 pass from Dustin Midgett (Chris Richardson kick), 12:10
SV – Andy Jones 1 run (Davis Cragun kick), 13:49
NCWC – Greg Edwards 62 pass from Robbie Lanier (conversion failed), 13:00
SV – Nate Caldwell 39 run (Cragun kick), 10:15
SV – Justin Gonzales 75 FG block return (Cragun kick), 4:49
NCWC – Marckenson Voltaire 11 pass from Lanier (Albert Raynor conversion), 0:08
SV – Cragun 27 FG, 0:00
16 First downs..............14
48 Passing yards..........238
295 Total offense...........347
Rushing – NCWC: Jacques Alston 20-58; Robbie Lanier 9-47; Dustin Midgett 4-4; Elgin Counts 2-0.
Passing – NCWC: Robbie Lanier 16-30, 225; Dustin Midgett 3-8, 13.
Receiving – NCWC: Greg Edwards 7-141; Marckenson Voltaire 4-54; Hunter Spriggs 3-20; Albert Raynor 2-8.
Jessie H. Nunery can be reached at 407-9959 or firstname.lastname@example.org