PEMBROKE — No matter the measurement, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke football team is off to its best start in school history. Six up, six down with no losses to show for it.
But with each win and each move up in the rankings, the No. 8 Braves have started to become a target themselves.
“When you’re an undefeated football team people are going to want to be looking at you and wanting to knock you off your plateau,” UNCP coach Pete Shinnick said.
No more was that apparent than last week when the Braves pulled out a 34-31 win at Catawba and will continue this week at Newberry, when the Braves play the Wolves in a series that has been continually close throughout its short history.
Against Catawba, UNCP trailed only once — falling behind on a field goal to trail 3-0 — and led by as many as 21 points with 10 minutes left in the third.
The Indians rallied behind a passing game for four second-half touchdowns, utilizing a flea flicker in one instance, to make it a three-point game with 3:41 left.
“Catawba played us really well and I’m proud of our guys to really overcome some adversity,” Shinnick said. “That’s never easy.”
Especially regarding the final UNCP drive, in which UNCP converted a series of second and third down conversions that forced Catawba to use its final timeout, Shinnick was pleased with the team’s response.
“I’m really really happy our guys found a way,” he said.
The win also had significance to Shinnick personally, who had his 100th career win as a collegiate head coach.
Against Newberry, the Braves will play a team plenty familiar with the Braves’ situation.
Entering last week’s 35-14 loss at Lenoir-Rhyne, the Wolves were 6-0 and had gotten as high as No. 23 in the AFCA rankings.
“They were right where we were a week ago,” Shinnick said.
Newberry brings a pass-heavy game led by second-year starter W.T. Murden, who had more than 2,200 passing yards last year and completed 196 of 322 passes. In seven games, he’s at 1,190 yards and is second on the team with 233 net rushing yards.
Corey Washington is the primary benefactor with 22 receptions for 418 yards and six of the team’s 10 passing touchdowns.
“This is a very, very good football team,” Shinnick said. “We will need to do everything right going into their place.”
Though there’s been plenty of excitement regarding UNCP’s start, Shinnick has tried to keep in mind that there’s still plenty left to do. Si
“We’re not done and this isn’t the goal,” he said. “The goal wasn’t to beat Charlotte, the goal wasn’t to beat Winston-Salem. We’re not done, we’ve got work to do.”