University of Charleston quarterback Maurice Leak dumps off a pass against Shaw in the Golden Eagles season opener Thursday night.
The University of Charleston put on a show for the carnival-like atmosphere Thursday that surrounded the school's first night game in the football program's history.Senior running back Jordan Roberts gained a school-record 238 yards on 23 carries and scored one touchdown and junior quarterback Maurice Leak accounted for four scores to propel the Golden Eagles past Shaw 44-26 in a mutual opener.A crowd of about 5,000 attended at UC Stadium free of charge, thanks to sponsor BrickStreet Insurance. Children were also treated to inflatables and prize giveaways and halftime entertainment featured the Purina Incredible Dog Show.It took UC half the season last year to get things going, as it dropped its first five games before winning five of its last six during Pat Kirkland's first season."That was a defense that was ranked third in the country [last year],'' said Kirkland of Shaw. "We lined up and were just physical with them. That was the key thing.''Roberts, an All-America last season, rumbled for 150 yards by halftime to spark the Golden Eagles' offense, which churned out 499, with 358 on the ground."I thought we came out firing on offense and defense,'' said Roberts. "We just came out and executed. I feel we're a way more complete team. We're good everywhere.''The former Scott High School all-state player and Kennedy Award winner repeatedly gave out more punishment than he took, finishing off runs with power in averaging just a shade over 10 yards per carry."He made some plays where they packed the box and he just got downhill and ran behind his pads,'' added Kirkland of Roberts.
Leak completed 11-of-20 passes for 141 yards with two TDs through the air and two rushing.UC's defense forced a fumble and an interception in limiting the Bears to 151 total yards in the opening half as it took control with a 34-13 lead.Shaw senior quarterback James Stallons, who played two years at Wisconsin, was limited to 53 yards passing in the first half and finished with 195 on 18-of-25 accuracy, mostly after the outcome was decided."They've got some outstanding talent,'' said Shaw first-year coach Robert Massey. "They're a little more athletic than I thought. Jordan is everything and then some.''UC's offense was in full throttle from the beginning Thursday, taking a 14-0 lead in the first quarter behind Roberts' 13-yard TD after Shaw punter Vinnie Pacifico slipped while kicking and lost 8 yards on the boot. Leak followed with a 2-yard scoring run on the next possession.After Shaw cut its deficit to 14-7 early in the second quarter on James Langford's 1-yard surge, the Golden Eagles answered with Leak's 14-yard pass to Shaq Williams, a former George Washington High School standout, for a 21-7 advantage.
The Bears, located in Raleigh, N.C., came right back with Langford's 13-yard scoring run to close to 21-14. UC kept its foot on the gas pedal as Leak jogged in from 5 yards on a three-play drive set up by Roberts' 52-yard sprint for a 28-14 edge with 4:18 to go in the opening half. The Golden Eagles added field goals by Puma Nuredini of 43 and 27 yards for a commanding 34-13 lead at the break and never looked back. Briefly: UC hosts St. Joseph (Ind.) at 7 p.m. next Thursday in its last weeknight game . . . The Golden Eagles have five of their first six at home, then go on the road four of their last five, including four straight . . . The teams combined for 24 penalties for 247 yards (UC 16 for 186) . . . The Golden Eagles were 7-of-8 on red-zone scoring chances.
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com