VUU beats St. Augustine’s, on the road to Gardner-Webb

Fred Jeter | 9/17/2015, 9:47 p.m.
In two coaching seasons at Virginia Union University, Coach Mark James is 9-3 overall, but 7-0 against North Carolina opponents.
Coach James

In two coaching seasons at Virginia Union University, Coach Mark James is 9-3 overall, but 7-0 against North Carolina opponents.

Remaining undefeated against North Carolina teams won’t be easy, however.

VUU is 2-0 this season after routing St. Augustine’s 42-7 last Saturday in Raleigh, N.C. Next up is a trip to Boiling Springs, N.C., to face Gardner-Webb University on Saturday.

“It’s a game that will be a measuring rod for us. It will help show us where we are,” said Coach James, whose Panthers play in NCAA Division II.

Located about 30 miles west of Charlotte, Gardner-Webb University is a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and Big South Conference.

FCS is one notch above Division II on the NCAA’s four-tier pecking order. There will be no return game in Richmond. VUU agreed to play for a financial guarantee.

“We have the attitude we can play with anyone,” said Coach James. “Obviously, they have more than we do in terms of scholarships and depth, but we see it as a great challenge.”

The NCAA allows 63 scholarships for each school in the FCS compared to 36 scholarships per school in the NCAA Division II.

GWU is hungry for a victory. The Runnin’ Bulldogs are 0-2 this season following losses to University of South Alabama and Elon University.

This is a rare opportunity for the Panthers. VUU’s previous games against FCS foes were against other HBCUs such as Bethune-Cookman University two years ago and Florida A&M University in 2004.

VUU split two games with GWU in 2000 and 2001, when GWU was in Division II. GWU joined the Big South in 2008.

The Panthers played Old Dominion University, now a member of the NCAA’s top Division I Bowl Championship Series (BCS), in 2009 when ODU was just starting its football program.

To upend GWU, VUU will need more of the punishing ground game it has displayed in trouncing Brevard College in North Carolina and St. Augustine’s College.

Freshman tailback Hakeem Holland has been brilliant in his first two college games. The speedster from Baltimore rambled for 161 yards against St. Augustine’s after picking up 101 yards in the season opener against Brevard College.

After sitting out last year as a red shirt, Holland is arguably VUU’s most exciting first-year ball toter since Judge Thomas in the 1970s. 

“We’re trying to get it going, to expand our game,” said Coach James. “Last year, we were mostly a passing team. But we’ve got an improved offensive line this year. We’re running much more effectively.”

Overall, VUU ran 51 times for 320 yards in Raleigh.

Another freshman, Morris Jackson from Hanover County’s Atlee High School, added 79 yards on 11 tries.

Flanker Andre Coble had five receptions from Shawheem Dowdy for 44 yards and a touchdown.

Defensively, Miles Pace had two sacks while Rodeshaw Joseph registered an interception and three pass break-ups.

VUU has mowed down its North Carolina competitors under Coach James.

A year ago, VUU defeated Fayetteville State, Johnson C. Smith, Shaw, Chowan and Elizabeth City State universities, all CIAA Division II programs from North Carolina.

This season, seven of VUU’s 10 opponents are from North Carolina, including the first five.

If VUU is to win the CIAA Northern Division, it will face another North Carolina school in the conference championship game Nov. 14 in Durham.