Here’s our in-depth break down of the top five takeaways from the Camels’ 41-20 win over the University of Pikeville during Thursday night’s season opener, an emotional night at Barker-Lane Stadium for the start of the sixth season in Campbell Football.
1. Running The Rock
The opening offensive series was very indicative of how things would transpire on the night. The Camels ran the ball each of the first four plays, eventually pounding the rock for 311 yards featuring a career-high 189-yard effort from De’Shawn Jones on 15 carries. What’s most noteworthy is that the Fighting Camels averaged 8.2 yards per carry, controlling the pace of play with their running game.
“You gotta have that mentality that not one person can bring you down,” said Jones, the record-setting back. “Once you keep chipping, they gonna be tired and you can break that big one.”
For comparison sake, Pikeville rushed the ball 37 times in the game amounting just 133 yards rushing. That combination of Jones and read-option threat Kameron Bryant at the helm gave the Camels a dynamic offensive attack. Redshirt junior tailback Jared Joyner joined the rushing party with two rushing scores in the red zone, contributing 34 rushing yards in total. In all, eight different players would earn a rushing attempt on the night.
2. Keep The Chains Moving
One of the biggest reasons the Fighting Camels were able to score in every quarter was through sustained drives into Pikeville territory. The Camels punted just once on the night, following a three-and-out drive mid-way through the third quarter, thanks in large part to an impressive 4-of-6 clip on third down against a blitz-heavy defense.
While the Camels were somewhat patient in the passing game, their effective use of the play-action pass fortified an effective dual threat offense resulting in three second-half touchdowns.
The Camels were highly effective in short yardage situations, showcasing their physicality in the running game while mostly out of the shotgun set. In order to better fortify the offense, however, the Camels will look to increase ball security after fumbling away the rock four times, including each of their first two possessions.
But once the early rust wore off, the Camels converted drives into points on four of their next five series.
3. Bryant Brilliant
The Campbell coaching staff has raved all Fall Camp long about the instant impact Kameron Bryant could have on this offense, and the Appalachian State transfer certainly delivered during his opening act. Bryant not only threw for two touchdowns, he ran for another in a 205-yard night. Led by a run-heavy attack that fed off his strengths as a quick decision maker in the passing game, Bryant only threw the ball 19 times on the night, completing six of his first eight passes.
Bryant also brought an added dimension with his legs, scampering for 67 yards on 11 carries in and out of the pocket. That while extending plays for his receivers, including a beautiful 31-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Blockmon in the back of the end zone for one of his two passing touchdowns in the winning effort.
Head coach Mike Minter would be the first to admit that Kameron Bryant is still learning the nuances of the playbook, but as he mentioned, “The base is here, scoring 41 points. Imagine what this offense can accomplish once we really start clicking.”
4. Mental Toughness
Playing in front of over 5,000 fans, the Fighting Camels showed some signs of nerves early in the football game. After fumbling away the pooch kickoff on the opening play of the season, the Camels fumbled on their very first offensive possession. It was merely a matter of time until the Camels started clicking on all cylinders.
“I was proud of the way our team responded,” said redshirt junior defensive tackle Rogers Clark. “We knew we were the better team all along, it just took us time to make that happen.”
Not to mention the incredible, nearly impossible, 38-yard grab by Jamon Langford on the final play of the first half, narrowing the lead to within striking distance, 21-10. The Bears would respond quickly out of the break notching an immediate 63-yard scoring drive, making it 21-17. The Fighting Camels would clamp down, taking the very next drive 62 yards for the score in seven plays for some much-needed breathing room. Defense certainly played a factor down the stretch, combining for two sacks and numerous TFL’s against the Bears spread-out attack that utilized wide offensive line splits.
5. Finding Ways To Win
The University of Pikeville gave everything Campbell wanted, and then some, showcasing some confidence as an undefeated NAIA program (1-0) entering Thursday night’s game. The Camels accomplished what they wanted, mostly by controlling the time of possession, limiting the Bears offense into small and short plays.
Executing a rather small dosage of their full playbook, the Camels scored 41 points and played their best football during the final 5:00 minutes of the fourth quarter. Despite some early mistakes, the Camels controlled both lines of scrimmage -as they should in a game like this- setting themselves up for a humbling experience about how to execute for the entire 60 minutes of action.
What does that mean moving forward? We will have to wait and see, especially as Chowan and Presbyterian loom large before Pioneer Football League play gets started.