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Hampton U. rallies late on Coker's 29-yard run
LaMarcus Coker's touchdown run technically measured 29 yards. Throw in the long celebration run on Hampton University's newly surfaced track and it was closer to 100 — at a clip few other than Usain Bolt could manage.
Coker's sprint to the end zone on a draw with 1 minute, 28 seconds to play in the game gave the Pirates a come-from-behind 31-24 win over North Carolina Central.
His run afterward was a combination of celebration for new head coach Donovan Rose, and an expression of relief for a Hampton team that seemed beaten only 90 seconds earlier.
"At that point I was having a horrible game, but I told my teammates, 'I'll get it this time,' " said Coker, who ran for only 59 yards. "After I scored, I just got emotional and didn't know what to do, so I just ran."
Pirates, quarterback David Legree, who started because school record-setting quarterback Herbert Bynes was hobbled by a sprained ankle, added, "That's Coker for you, man. Coker will give you that five yards a pop, five yards a pop, and then spring the big play on you."
The Pirates (1-0) needed the big play to secure the non-conference win. The Eagles disintegration moments earlier put them in position to get it.
Leading 24-23 with three minutes to play in the game, the Eagles (0-1) appeared to strike for the game-clinching score, when quarterback Michael Johnson passed 57 yards to Andrew Johnson (no relation) for an apparent touchdown.
But Eagles center James Frye was called for holding on the play, nullifying the score. Consecutive penalties — delay of game and a snap infraction — moved the ball to the Eagles' 26.
The Eagles were forced to punt from their 27, but a low snap put gave Hampton the chance to put heavy pressure on punter Haselsberger. He got the kick off, but for minus-1 yard.
Two plays later, Coker's run — and Legree's pass to Isiah Thomas for two points — all but clinched the first head-coaching win for Rose.
"The team took over tonight," said Rose, head coach at Hampton, his alma mater, after 18 years as an assistant. "The offense picked us up at that point, but when it was sputtering, the defense picked us up, and the special teams picked us up."
Legree (10 of 18, 140 yards) struggled early, throwing an interception. Johnson capitalized with completions of 30 and 34 yards, the second to Geovonie Irvine for a touchdown to make it 7-0.
Then came the defensive pick up Rose referred to, the fumble that linebacker Julio Sanchez forced Johnson into, and recovered to give the Pirates the ball at the Eagles' 32.
Legree passed to wide open Damon McDaniel in the end zone on the next play to tie the game at 7-7.
McDaniel would provide the special teams pick up. With the Pirates clinging to a 17-14 lead, McDaniel did a perfect imitation of his brother Marquay — a former national punt return leader for HU. He dodged his way through the Eagles for an 82-yard punt return to make it 23-14 late in the third quarter.
"This is really the start to my career at Hampton," said McDaniel, a Florida State transfer. "I didn't get many reps last year. This was a chance for me to show my talent."
But the Eagles recovered, scoring 10 points early in the fourth quarter to take a 24-23 lead.
Receiver Will Scott ran 48 yards on a reverse to set up a short field goal, before Johnson gave them the lead by going 11 yards on a keeper with 11:08 to play.
The late penalties stopped the Eagles momentum. Coker's run put them away, much to Rose's delight.
"It came down to the wire, but anything worth having is worth fighting for," Rose said.
HAMPTON 31, N.C. CENTRAL 24
|N.C. Central 70710—24|
First Quarter NCCe—Irvine 34 pass from M.Johnson (Cardelle kick), 9:05. Hamp—Da.McDaniel 32 pass from Legree (Stovall kick), 1:02.
Second Quarter Hamp—FG Stovall 39, 2:28.
Third Quarter NCCe—Scott 4 pass from M.Johnson (Cardelle kick), 10:45. Hamp—S.Robinson 1 run (Stovall kick), 4:38. Hamp—Da.McDaniel 82 punt return (kick failed), 1:20.
Fourth Quarter NCCe—FG Cardelle 30, 13:49. NCCe—M.Johnson 11 run (Cardelle kick), 11:08. Hamp—Coker 29 run (I.Thomas pass from Legree), 1:28. A—7,417.
|Time of Possession||30:58||29:02|
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICSRUSHING—N.C. Central, Shankle 10-58, Scott 1-48, McCord 13-36, M.Johnson 4-8, Abdul-Azeez 2-4, An.Johnson 1-1, Team 1-(minus 3). Hampton, Coker 9-59, S.Robinson 8-29, McCloude 3-16, Cave 0-2, Bynes 1-(minus 2), Team 1-(minus 3), Legree 10-(minus 15).
PASSING—N.C. Central, M.Johnson 9-21-2-123, Williams 1-3-0-9. Hampton, Legree 10-18-1-140, Bynes 0-2-0-0.
RECEIVING—N.C. Central, Ward 4-59, Scott 3-18, Irvine 1-34, An.Johnson 1-20, Shankle 1-1. Hampton, Da.McDaniel 3-59, S.Robinson 2-42, Coker 2-8, Hicks 1-18, I.Thomas 1-11, McCloude 1-2.
Next game WHO: Hampton (1-0) at Alabama A&M (0-1)
WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday.
WHERE: Huntsville, Ala.
RADIO: WHOV/88.1 FM.