Saturday’s Homecoming game was an exciting one. UNCG Club Football forced a shutout, running back Justice McLaurin tore up the defense all afternoon and the Spartans walked away with a 19-0 victory over Wright State.
It was a big win for an up-and-coming team looking to establish itself as UNCG’s legitimate football program. In front of a lively crowd, they got the job done.
“It’s great [winning on Homecoming] because we want a great fanbase…” Head Coach Oscar Malone, who affectionately goes by ‘Coach O,’ said after the game. “This game here showed a complete set for us, defense, offense, and also special teams contributed a lot. And giving the fans something to enjoy, something to be proud of, to see their Spartans play football, it’s great.”
The game was a slugfest, won in the trenches of the line of scrimmage. UNCG was a far larger and stronger team on the offensive line, and it showed. Freshman quarterback Faran Khan, subbing in for injured starting quarterback Brandon Travis, consistently had time to throw, and McLaurin made easy work of an outmatched Raider defense thanks to the huge holes opened up by the Spartan line.
“Coach Seal, our o-line coach, he put in a lot of work with those guys,” Coach Malone said. “We just wanted to make sure we had the chemistry so we could keep the injuries down and keep these guys at practice, because it’s hard. They’re college students, going to school, they have to work, come to practice, so we demand a lot out of them playing out here, but we also want them to be excellent in the classroom.”
That chemistry was on display Saturday. Late in the first quarter, with the score knotted at zero and the Blue and Gold driving, McLaurin burst toward the goal line only to be stripped right before crossing the plane. The ball puttered into the end zone. However, a UNCG offensive lineman trailing the play instinctively pounced on the live ball for a touchdown. The Spartan sideline erupted into cheers. It was the kind of decisive play that made it clear that this team plays together, for each other.
On the ensuing Wright State drive, a UNCG cornerback nabbed a lazy Raider pass and took it to the house for an explosive pick-six. The defensive touchdown seemed to suck the life out of the Raider sideline, and UNCG knew it. 12-0, Spartans.
“The first year we [had a team] was three years ago and our defense has always been in the top ten in everything: interceptions, sacks, tackles for losses, all that,” Coach Malone said. “So we want to keep that going. That motivates the offense and keeps the defense on pace to be that top ten team.”
Perhaps the turning point of the game came late in the second quarter. Wright State, which struggled to move the ball past the 50-yard line all game, finally scrapped together a promising drive thanks to three personal fouls on UNCG. The Raiders eventually bullied their way down to the UNCG one-yard line for a first-and-goal. However, a UNCG defender picked off Wright State for the second time that afternoon and ensured a clutch goal line stand. The Spartans took a 12-0 lead into the locker room.
The teams exchanged punts and turnovers for most of the second half. Wright State continuously tried to go for the long ball, but UNCG’s secondary were too fast, and the Raiders were forced to punt time and time again.
Wright State’s best chance at scoring came late in the third quarter after they recovered a UNCG fumble deep in Spartan territory. However, another goal line stand for the dominant UNCG defensive line forced a field goal attempt. The attempt was wide left, and McLaurin took a handoff on the next series 85 yards down to the Wright State five-yard line. UNCG was able to punch it in from there and made an extra point that sealed the victory, 19-0.
UNCG Club Football will next be in action on Saturday versus Kennesaw State at the UNCG Recreational Field.