First Posted: 1/15/2009
PEMBROKE - When performing in front of an audience, one of the most common pieces of advice is to leave the crowd wanting more.
In their final football practice of the spring on Friday, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke made sure to do just that.
The offensive unit capped off an exciting back-and-forth scrimmage with a last-second touchdown to take a 57-51 victory over the defense in front of about 1,500 fans at Lumbee Guaranty Bank Field.
The final score came on a 36-yard touchdown from quarterback Jimmie Bellamy to receiver Justin Nunery as time expired. The score made up for a dropped pass by Nunery near the end zone on the previous play.
“I thought I had the first one, but it kind of went of through my hands,” said Nunery, who had five catches for 69 yards. “When I got that second chance, I just made the best of it.
“It's more than I could've hoped for. It was nice to end the spring that way.”
For Braves coach Pete Shinnick, though, the dramatic finish was double-edged.
“As a head coach, you're encouraged that the wide receiver caught it, but you're discouraged that the defensive back didn't knock it down,” he said. “It's a 50-50 deal right there.”
The scrimmage capped off three weeks of practices for the Braves, who are preparing for the school's first football season in over half a century.
Tailback Brandon McLaurin scored the game's first touchdown on a 20-yard run with 1:40 remaining in the first half. Because of the scoring system, which awarded points to the defense for achievements such as forcing the offense into three-and-out situations, the defense took a 27-26 lead into the break.
“At the beginning of the game we were just moving kind of slow and we came out a little flat,” said McLaurin, who led all rushers with 87 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. “Coach said just keep on running hard, it's going to open up.”
Quarterback Matt Evans was the game's leading passer. He was 15-for-25 for 208 yards. But he also threw a pair of picks.
“Matt hasn't really thrown a lot of interceptions, so that was kind of unlike him,” Shinnick said. “But at the same time, it was good to see him calm down a little bit there. … I was trying to create situations to put our guys in to see how they handle them and see what they do.”
Evans, who is projected as the team's starter, said the Braves have come a long way since spring practices started.
“If you would look at the film from practice No. 4 to practice No. 12, you'd see a big difference,” he said. “You don't even have to like football. If you just look at the film, you'll see the difference.”
In all, the defense forced five turnovers in the game, including four interceptions. Defensive back Anthony Rhanes returned a third-quarter pick 38 yards for a touchdown.
Defensive lineman D.J. Anders led all defenders with nine tackles, including two for a loss.
Bellamy finished with 174 yards passing. He was 14-for-24 with a touchdown and an interception. Jamar Dials led all receivers with 79 yards on four catches.
“It was a great experience, after sitting out for so long, to get back on the field and show the fans what we could do,” McLaurin said. “We've still got a couple kinks that we can work out on offense and defense, but overall I think we had a very good day.”