By John Bombatch
WILBERFORCE — After his team’s third consecutive loss of the season, Central State head coach Cedric Pearl wore a look of exasperation as he sat outside his office after the game.
He’d just watched his Marauders get sliced up by one Benedict College running back, and bowled over by another, in Saturday’s 42-6 home opening loss.
“They dominated the line of scrimmage, and we weren’t able to stop them from running the ball,” Pearl said.
Fleet footed 5-foot-6 175-pound Grambling State transfer George Myers rushed for a Benedict modern-day school record of 235 yards on 13 carries by darting in and out of the Marauders’ defense. Tigers teammate Jeremy Johnson used his 5-11, 270-pound frame to simply bowl over CSU defenders for another 55 yards. Benedict (2-1) amassed 333 yards of rushing offense in Saturday’s lopsided win, and totaled 374 in all.
Meanwhile, Central State’s offense seemed to shoot itself in the foot whenever it had a decent drive going.
Several promising drives were hamstrung with holding penalties or personal foul calls. Central State was whistled for nine penalties, which cost the team 140 yards, but Benedict had plenty of flags thrown their way as well (11 for 130 yards).
CSU quarterback Lavon Meeks passed for 184 yards on 19-of-38 throwing, but the final two Benedict scores were the result of interception returns of 51 and 100 yards.
Edward Kirkland’s 100 yarder hurt the worst.
Central State (0-3) had its best drive of the afternoon going, a 21-play, 92-yard affair. But Kirkland, a University of South Carolina transfer, stepped in front of Meek’s fade pass to the right at the goal line. Kirkland broke a couple mid-field tackle attempts and lumbered the rest of the way for the game-clinching, final-nail-in-the-coffin score.
“I’ll have to take a look at the game films, but it’s why I’m doing a lot of soul searching right now. I’ve gotta find the answers, and I’ve gotta find them fast,” Pearl said. “There were a few good plays for us out there, but not enough. We’re just not … we’re just not nearly where we need to be offensively. The mental errors are what’s really hurting us, and that’s on both sides of the ball.”
One bright spot on defense and special teams was the play of all-American senior Deonate Gary. The Lakeland, Fla. linebacker led the team with 11 unassisted tackles and five assisted stops with one tackle for a loss. When CSU’s punts were coming up short, Gary took over the punting duties late in the game and booted a 40-yarder.
Gary leads the team in tackles with 33 combined (22 solo) thus far this season.
Clim Robbins was another special teams highlight, returning four kickoffs for 90 yards total.
Southeast Missouri State transfer De’Michael Jackson continues to look good at running back for the Marauders. The senior transfer gained 107 yards on 15 carries in the losing effort. Jackson now has 325 total rushing yards this season, averaging 6.25 yards per carry.
Pearl and his coaching staff will surely be combing the game films for answers to the team’s early-season woes. They have less than a week to figure it all out: Central State takes on Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference foe Kentucky State next in the annual Circle City Classic, at 3 p.m. Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind.
John Bombatch can be reached at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.