VSU Still Unbeaten in CIAA
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Oct 21, 2013, 08:32
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
ETTRICK — Over the course of a season, teams tend to take the attitude of their head coach and Virginia State University’s football team has surely taken on the personality of Latrell Scott.
The Trojans are a hard-nosed squad, one which never panics and focuses on the task at hand. It’s the script they followed in a stirring 47-44 comeback victory over Bowie State in four overtimes, an instant classic at Rogers Stadium Saturday afternoon.
It’s a feat made even more impressive after the Trojans trailed Bowie State by a 20-10 score with 47 seconds left in the third quarter and had just 1:02 left to tie the game in regulation when Garry Cropper hauled in a 24-yard pass to give the Bulldogs a 27-24 lead.
Yet, like they have all season, the Trojans battled back and found themselves in field goal range when kicker Shawn Hunt nailed the 37-yard attempt, tying the game and forcing the first of four overtime periods.
Then, after trading touchdowns, Bowie State’s offense managed only a field goal in the fourth overtime, leaving the Trojans’ offense a chance to win the game. Thorpe went back for a pass on the first play and targeted Gene Holloman on a slant, but it glanced off the Bulldogs’ Darius Clair’s hands.
Thorpe then looked to the sideline and saw Scott calling for the same play with a fake slant to get the corner to bite with a soft fade over the top. Clair took the bait, diving forward while Holloman pivoted and turned upfield as Thorpe lofted a pass high into the dark skies.
When it finally settled into Holloman’s hands, the 7,493 fans in attendance roared in unison as the players raced into the end zone to celebrate a feat becoming all too common.
“Coach Scott came up with a genius play,” Thorpe said. “Great play-call. I thank that guy and I’m glad to be here with him.”
It marked the third time Virginia State (6-1, 4-0) has won a game in the final minute this season, highlighting the mark of a new culture.
“We talked to these guys last night about taking on the personality of the staff,” Scott said of his team. “I don’t know if it’s a good thing, but they are like the coaching staff: They are hard-headed, strong-willed and they refuse to be average.”
All traits normally found in a winning program which is what the Trojans are becoming under Scott.
While the old adage is big players step up in big games, there is another one which fits this Virginia State squad — big-time coaches win close games.
The Trojans are now 4-0 this season in games decided by seven-or-fewer points and when combined with his time as head coach at the University of Richmond, Scott’s teams are an impressive 7-0.
“Coach Scott has always preached about sticking together and playing for one another,” Hunt said after helping his team reach overtime with his clutch field goal. “We’ve been down a lot this year but everyone plays for each other. We believe in each other and we know we are going to make plays.”
And the belief the Trojans’ kicker speaks of starts with the man in charge.
Scott inherited a Virginia State squad which finished last season with a 4-6 record and boasted a lackluster offensive attack, averaging just a shade over 19 points per game.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
Spend some time talking to players and they will tell you it started in training camp. They noticed a Division I attitude. They saw a coach who had success at a higher level and they fed into what he’s preached.
After seven games, Virginia State has just one blemish on their record — a 16-point loss to Bendict in a game they held a four-point lead. Since that point, Virginia State has reeled off five consecutive wins, including a 41-0 win over Kentucky State.
They are averaging 30 points per game and over 185 rushing yard per contest, both near the top of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association. They know they can score, stop and beat anyone.
It’s best described as a winning attitude.
“All of us have that confidence,” Thorpe said after his team’s fifth win a row. “Coach Scott says it best, ‘I like your confidence, but I don’t want it to turn into arrogance.’ We know we can score. We know we can stop people. We just have to go out there and execute.”
Execute they have.
Perhaps none more so than Thorpe and his wide receiver combination of Jaivon Smallwood along with the recipient of the winning touchdown pass, Holloman.
Thorpe’s mastery of the Bulldogs resulted in 214 rushing yards on 28 carries for two touchdowns and 259 passing yards on 20-of-33 attempts for an additional two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Smallwood racked up eight catches for 131 yards and a touchdown.
It’s a dangerous offense filled with enough skill position players to keep an opposing defensive coordinator up all night in fear.
“I’m just thankful they are here,” Scott said of his skill players.
While he’s thankful, opposing coaches aren’t. The Trojans are rolling, filled with both skilled players and confidence, a potent recipe for success as the season heads to its conclusion.