WINGATE — No matter what The University of North Carolina at Pembroke football team has been through this week, coach Shane Richardson will not let it be an excuse for a bad performance on Saturday.
After spending the last two days practicing at Wingate University, the UNCP (5-1) football team will be in another unfamiliar place on Saturday hosting Kentucky Wesleyan (1-5) at Pate Stadium at Scotland High School for a 2 p.m. kickoff.
“We’ve made sure to communicate to the guys that this will not be an excuse to perform our best on Saturday,” Richardson said. “This hurricane and all the effects it has had is nothing to stop us short of our goal to play great on Saturday.”
Adversity and Murphy’s Law are two concepts that the Braves have been accustomed to hearing with Richardson as head coach and is one way he prepares the team throughout practices. He sees now how this week is a way to test his team on the lessons they try and teach.
“This is how we talk and plan and train week in and week out so this is something that will not be out of comfort zone,” he said. “We’ve handled it well.”
The practice week has been shorter than usual for UNCP this week with Monday and Tuesday being lost while the administration searched for other locations for the team to practice with power out in Pembroke and the practice area flooded. Preparation for the Panthers is being crammed into three days, while also trying to use that time to get the team back into connection after three days off.
“After this week when the guys have take off Sunday, Monday and Tuesday to sit around, naturally things are going to be out of sync,” Richardson said. “Yesterday we were rusty and sloppy, but the guys knew the importance of working to get better. Today was much improved and tomorrow we will combine what we do on Thursday and Friday.”
With the extended break following the game, Richardson said that practice on Wednesday was a return to normalcy for the team.
The Braves are coming off a 36-20 win on the road at Lenoir-Rhyne and responded from a slow start to score on seven of their final nine drives to bounce back from the loss to Tuskegee.
“I like what we did on Saturday and we saw some things that we still can do better,” Richardson said. “I thought we had a lot of successful performances, but we haven’t got it all together for the all-around four-quarter performance we are searching for. We are getting closer though.”
Running back Rontonio Stanley had a career-high 192 yards on 12 rushes to account for three touchdowns in the win. The Braves running game was one of the successful performances from the win, averaging 10.9 yards per carry.
After a loss last season on the road to Kentucky Wesleyan last season in which Richardson felt the Braves overlooked the other team, he hopes to see a different approach from his team in readying for a 1-5 team that play harder than their record indicates.
“Last year was an experience that some of the guys that are here with us this year understand and are willing to try and change what happened,” he said.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.