Anderson, VSU Surprise CIAA With Dominance
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Oct 30, 2013, 07:36
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
ETTRICK — If Virginia State’s football team listened to outside prognostications, they would be sitting in the basement of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Instead, the Trojans have focused on the talent they knew they possessed inside the locker room, distancing themselves from the doomsday predictions prior to the season’s start.
After eight games, the Trojans (7-1, 5-0) have just one blemish on their gaudy record — a 30-14 loss to Benedict College at Metlife Stadium. They remain undefeated in conference play, averaging 33 points per game against CIAA opponents.
Perhaps, the biggest reason for their dominance over other teams comes from the play of the offensive and defensive lines. Virginia State ranks second in the conference with 188.8 rushing yards per game, trailing only Winston-Salem State’s 190.1 yards per game.
It’s an aspect not unnoticed by head coach Latrell Scott.
“You have to credit those coaches,” Scott said. “I think Chris Malone is one of the best line coaches in the country. Chris has been a Division I coach his entire career and that’s got a lot to do it. On the flip side, Keith Braxton grows every week as a D-Line coach and the kids on the defensive line really believe in him.”
And it shows on the stat sheet.
Behind a dominating offensive line, the Trojans have run the ball through creases with ease, tallying 21 rushing touchdowns on the season. Meanwhile, the defensive front has limited their opponents to just seven, marking a plus 14 differential.
A big reason for their success on the ground lies within the legs of senior running back Jordan Anderson.
Anderson ranks first among all players in the CIAA in touchdowns, tallying 15, and second in yards per game with 104.6. His North, South style allows Anderson to pick up critical yards after initial contact, but it’s when he reaches the second level where his impact is truly felt.
“He’s proving to people he can carry the ball 15 to 25 times a game,” Scott said. “He’s a little bit different because he’s a big guy, but if he gets to the second level, he can run away from you.”
That’s exactly what Virginia State has done to the rest of the CIAA this season — running away from them because of their dominance. Yet, the most impressive aspect of the Trojans’ season is not their success, but the way they have handled it.
Following an emotional four overtime victory against Bowie State, it wouldn’t be abnormal for a team to suffer a let-down in their next game. But the Trojans didn’t.
Following a sloppy first half, Virginia State took control of the game against Lincoln in the third quarter, capped off by a a 71-yard fumble return by Ronald Lewis — the sixth time the Trojans’ defense has registered a touchdown this year.
Anderson said it’s a mind-set the team has had since the season began.
“Coach Scott mentioned it to this day that we are still the 10th best team in our conference,” Anderson said alluding to the preseason CIAA poll. “We’re just out here trying to prove them wrong and prove it to ourselves that we aren’t the 10th best.”
Virginia State has done more than just render the preseason poll meaningless — they have already defeated four teams picked to finish ahead of them — but they have gained a confidence in themselves.
The Trojans never feel as if they are out of a game as evidenced by Virginia State’s three late-game comebacks this season. It’s a winning mentality instilled in them by the coaching staff and having the confidence they will be placed in the right situations.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
It also has to do with the incredible focus of the team to continue to get better.
“We don’t want to quit. We’re in the driver’s seat right now,” Anderson explained. “We’re closing in on a goal that we want and that’s get to the championship ... We can’t slack off.”
With Scott in charge, it’s something not likely to happen.
Anderson said Scott demands a lot out of his players and in turn it’s making them better as a group. Earlier this season, senior cornerback Sean Smith discussed Scott’s practices and meetings, saying it’s “D-1 all the way.”
“It’s just the standard they hold for everyone,” he said. “They hold everyone accountable for their actions. Everyone has been responsible for the decisions they make and it’s showed on the field.”
That’s an understatement.
The Trojans are in the midst of a six-game winning streak — surpassing a five-game winning-streak for the first time since 2005 — and are ranked in the top four in points, rushing yard and total yards in conference play.
Virginia State is also garnering national attention, ranking 10th in the Boxtorow HBCU Football Media Top 10 Poll. It’s a mark which highlights the talent in the room, but also shows the need to keep the team level-headed as the season comes to a close.
“I come up with a new challenge each week and they handle it,” Scott said. “It’s our job as a staff to keep them focused and let them know it’s still a one-week season.”
With two games remaining, the Trojans have the opportunity to finish off an undefeated season in CIAA play. Whether they accomplish it or not depends on the team not turning in a listless effort and staying true to the game-plan which has led them to success this season.