Freshman Chauncey Caldwell steps in and leads N.C. Central to 33-28 win over S.C. State
DURHAM, North Carolina — True freshman Chauncey Caldwell now owns North Carolina Central’s starting quarterback role.
The Durham native came into the game after transfer sophomore Micah Zanders went down with a shoulder injury in the second quarter, and he proceeded to throw two touchdowns and finish with 77 yards on the ground to lift N.C. Central past South Carolina State, 33-28, on Thursday night in both teams’ Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) opener.
NCCU (2-1, 1-0) has won three consecutive MEAC championships, and no conference opponent has beaten the Eagles, who won their 16th straight MEAC contest, in 715 days.
“Yes, [Caldwell] will be on top of the depth chart. We don’t know exactly what Micah Zanders’ status is, but we feel more comfortable moving forward with Chauncey Caldwell,” coach Jerry Mack said. “I’m just really proud of the way the team fought back. Words can’t express how proud I am of those guys for knowing they were down against that kind of team … and to battle back from that adversity.
“It was a lot cleaner [than the Shaw game.] We executed well, and we had a little bit better effort.”
South Carolina State had built a two-touchdown lead, 21-7, thanks to scoring on three straight possessions: a 20-yard throw from Dewann Ford Jr. to Kendall Cobb, an 8-yard scamper by Ford and a 26-yard touchdown throw from Ford to Quan Caldwell.
Caldwell jumped into the game and pumped new life into an offense that didn’t pick up a single first down prior to his insertion into the game. He proceeded to amass five first downs on his first drive and led the Eagles on a nine-play, 76-yard scoring march that was capped off by a 27-yard throw to Jordan Fieulleteau to make it 21-14 in favor of the Bulldogs.
N.C. Central’s touchdown was the first allowed by S.C. State in seven quarters.
After Caldwell came out of the game briefly with an injury of his own, third-stringer Naiil Ramadan stepped in and threw a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to Jacen Murphy to bring the Eagles within two, 28-26. The Bulldogs, who had 175 yards on their first five possessions, only managed to gain 99 in the entire second half.
“He took a back seat to some guys who came in and beat him out, but he never stopped working, and that showcases what we’re about,” Mack said of Ramadan.
Caldwell returned to the game after Ramadan’s score and two plays later found a wide-open Josh McCoy for a 38-yard touchdown to give N.C. Central its first lead since returning a fumble on S.C. State’s opening possession 85 yards to the house.
N.C. Central’s defense held the Bulldogs to one score in the second half.