Greene County News
WILBERFORCE — Central State University will play in McPherson Memorial Stadium for the first time in 2016 when the team hosts Benedict College on Saturday at 1:30 pm.
Opening the season with losses to the University of Dayton and Clark Atlanta University, CSU hopes Saturday’s home field advantage will help push them to victory against a Benedict Tigers team with a 1-1 overall mark.
Despite the 0-2 start, CSU currently leads the SIAC in combined total offense with 818 yards in its first two contests. Lavon Meeks leads the SIAC in passing yards while Marquis Wells is the top SIAC receiver after back-to-back games of 100+ receiving yards. Rushing for 156 yards last week, senior running back De’Michael Jackson ranks second in the conference in yards entering Saturday. Jackson also earned SIAC Newcomer of the Week after two scores and 64 yards on the ground against UD, a NCAA Div. I program.
A problem for CSU has been turnovers and red zone efficiency. The Marauders are averaging just 13 points per contest and have turned the ball over a combined 9 times entering Saturday’s game. Last week, CSU combined for 453 yards of offense but turned the ball over 3 times and were 0 for 4 on fourth down conversions.
“We are focused on correcting our mistakes and putting the first two weeks behind us,” CSU head coach Cedric Pearl says. “We will make the necessary adjustments on offense, defense and special teams as we prepare for a much improved and well coached team in Benedict.”
With the majority of defensive starters returning from the 2015 season, the coaching staff is preaching focus and discipline to an experienced group of players. Preseason SIAC All-Conference selection Deonate Gary, Nehemiah Coward and Clim Robbins have put together solid starts to their senior seasons. Gary opened the season with 9 tackles, 1 sack and a forced fumble. He currently leads the team with 17 tackles.
Coward is right behind him with 16 tackles. He has continued to find ways to get his hands on the ball, recovering a fumble in week one and intercepting a pass last weekend. While Robbins has yet to record an interception, he has a team-high 5 pass break ups. As a punt returner, he leads the conference in return yards which includes an 80 yard touchdown against UD.
Benedict appears to have an improved defensive unit compared to last season. The Tiger defense led BC to a 5-3 win over Livingstone to open the season. Offensive turnovers were a major factor in BC’s 19-13 loss to Limestone last week. Despite the loss, Benedict may have found confidence when inserting quarterback Phillip Brown. Brown was 5-of-12 for 39 yards passing and had 52 yards rushing, playing the entire second half.
“I thought that was huge for us to get a new quarterback in,” said BC head coach Mike White. “He gave us some new juice and some new legs and made some plays for us. Hopefully, we can build off that.”
While planning for the potential of competing against a new quarterback, the CSU defense will look to duplicate last year’s performance when they shutout the Tigers, 24-0. It was the first shutout victory for CSU since the 2009 season. CSU also dominated time of possession thanks to a combined 232 rushing yards.
Saturday will mark the fifth time Central State and Benedict have played each other. CSU leads the all-time series, 3-1. The first meeting took place in 1964 with the Marauders coming out victorious, 16-12.