With a losing streak that is now at four games, N.C. Wesleyan isn’t just seeking to put together 60 minutes of solid football.
It also wants to string together five great practices.
What coach Mark Henninger saw during the week leading up to Saturday’s game against USA South rival Methodist was a team that practiced well in spurts.
After kickoff Saturday, not much had changed.
N.C. Wesleyan battled to a halftime draw but caved immediately when the third quarter began in losing, 34-13, to Methodist at Northern Nash High School.
“You play like you practice,” Henninger said. “We had two great days, and two days that were not very good. We were like two different football teams during the week and out here. In the first half we fought, and in the second half we were flat.”
Methodist returned the opening kick of the second half into N.C. Wesleyan territory, and less than a minute later, took a 14-7 lead on a 26 yard touchdown pass from Mad Reber to Vaughn Cross.
Reber threw two more touchdown passes in the quarter, and just like that, the Battling Bishops homecoming was ruined, and the likelihood of the team entertaining thoughts of contending in the league vanished.
Battling Bishops defensive back Dwayne Hollis, a senior, was aware of how quickly his teammates’ enthusiasm changed after the scores.
“We’re getting our heads down too quick,” Hollis said. “We have to change that and start fighting through the adversity.”
Though there might not be any other coach or player who can assess the squad better than Henninger or Hollis, many of the same things that have plagued the Battling Bishops during the past month were on display once again against Methodist.
N.C. Wesleyan (1-4, 0-2 USAS) is playing a number of freshman and sophomores on offense, and the unit continues to struggle. The Bishops have not scored more than 16 points since a season-opening victory Sept. 1 against Ohio Northern.
Against Methodist, quarterback Laron Ellerbe (25-for-39, 240 yards) was chased relentlessly within the pocket. The Bishops did not produce a respectable rushing attack, and they finished with minus-45 yards on the ground against a Monarchs team that won its first league game.
2011 North Edgecombe graduate Keltcey Richardson finished with a team-high 12 tackles (nine unassisted) and one sack for Methodist, which kept N.C. Wesleyan in third-and-long situations all afternoon.
For an offense that craves points, those spots were too much to overcome. N.C. Wesleyan converted only five of 18 chances on third down.
Next week is no easier. The Bishops travel to Ferrum (4-2, 1-1 USAS).
“Our youth is no excuse,” Henninger said. “We’ve done that here before. What we do is not very complicated.
“Our guys have to perform.We have to do a better job of coaching them and getting them prepared. When we get on the field, our guys have to do a better job of performing.”
N.C. Wesleyan 13
MU 0 7 21 6 – 34
NCWC 0 7 0 6 – 13
MU – Patrick Jacobs 15 pass from Max Reber (Cody Ausherman kick), 10:39
NCWC – Greg Edwards 4 pass from Laron Ellerbe (Hampus Lithen kick), 0:16
MU – Vaughn Cross 26 pass from Reber (Ausherman kick), 14:01
MU – James Bevans 6 pass from Reber (Ausherman kick), 10:06
MU – John Flanagan 30 pass from Reber (Ausherman kick), 6:22
MU – Reber 3 run (kick failed), 12:30
NCWC – Jamias Williams 9 pass from Laron Ellerbe (kick failed), 6:10
18 First downs................20
230 Passing yards............287
322 Total offense............242
NCWC Individual Statistics
Rushing – NCWC: Jacques Alston 7-18; Robbie Lanier 1-(-9); John Jackson 5-(-13); Laron Ellerbe 14-(-41). Passing : Laron Ellerbe 25-39, 240; John Jackson 3-8, 47. Receiving: John Young 6-61; Greg Edwards 6-50; Quinton. Richmond 4-66; Te’Sean Glass 3-51.
Jessie H. Nunery can be reached at 407-9959 or email@example.com