Tony DeMeo

Charleston knocks off St. Augustine’s 34-17

Win restores UC’s confidence
By Tommy R. Atkinson
Sunday Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The University of Charleston’s defensive backs gathered at midfield and jumped up and down, hooting and hollering on the Golden Eagle after Saturday afternoon’s home opener.

UC’s 34-17 win over St. Augustine’s was just as much about reclaiming confidence and pride as it was about getting the season back on track. A crowd of about 1,300 saw the Golden Eagles earn their first win of the season at UC Stadium.  

“We came out with intensity,” said UC sophomore quarterback DeRante Hunter. “We’ve got our confidence. Everybody knows [now] that we’ve got the right attitude.”

The Golden Eagles (1-1), who entered the season with NCAA Division II playoff aspirations after finishing 8-3 last year, took a hit last week in falling 40-0 in a season-opening loss at Tusculum (Tenn.).

“I feel like our pride was wounded a little bit last week,” UC coach Tony DeMeo said. “I think we’re back on track. I felt we played with great desire and enthusiasm. We’ve got a lot of work left to do.”

 Hunter helped set the tone Saturday by turning in 186 total yards and two touchdowns as UC’s triple-option offense piled up 355 total yards with no turnovers.

“We just want to get after it and improve next week,” DeMeo said. “That’s the mantra since I’ve been here: improve every week.”

The opening drive seemed a repeat from last week as St. Augustine’s moved to the UC 6-yard line. But the Golden Eagles’ defense stiffened and the Falcons (1-1), who were coming off an upset of nationally ranked Catawba, turned the ball over on downs and never threatened again.

Five plays later, junior Aaron Higdon scored on a 15-yard sweep around the right end, giving UC a 7-0 lead and the Golden Eagles were off and flying.

UC sophomore Wes Sherrill added a 27-yard field goal after a St. Augustine’s fumble and Hunter hit sophomore Julian Johnson with a 28-yard scoring pass for a 17-0 advantage with 5:39 left before halftime. All St. Augustine’s could manage was a 34-yard field goal from Adison Daniels in the first half.

The Golden Eagles broke the game wide open in the third quarter. Hunter scored from 5 yards out to cap an eight-play, 62-yard drive that handed UC a 24-3 lead.

Senior quarterback Anthony Brown sneaked in from the 1 as St. Augustine’s pulled within 27-10, but any momentum that might have been gained was quickly snuffed out by UC. Johnson brought back the ensuing kickoff 82 yards for a TD to grab a 34-10 edge and essentially seal the deal.

There are still a few kinks UC needs to work out, such as the 18 penalties for 163 yards that led to two TDs getting called back. But the Golden Eagles avoided costly turnovers and held Raleigh, N.C.-based St. Augustine’s pretty much in check until the win was secured.

“The only disappointing thing was we had a few penalties when we were trying to put the game away,” DeMeo said. “I thought our defense really showed great improvement from last week. I thought our offense against a great defense that really shut down Catawba last week did a good job.”

Brown finished with 154 yards passing with a TD and added 93 yards and a score rushing.

“It’s tough when you don’t see the option,” said St. Augustine’s coach Michael Costa. “We missed some assignments. [UC] came prepared. We figured that. They didn’t want to be 0-2 and they’re at home. They had a lot of fire about them.”

Charleston Gazette