Courtesy of Anthony Jeffries
DURHAM, N.C. (Oct. 22) – Andre Brandon, Jr.(Jr./Baltimore. MD) picked the right time to have his best game as a football player.
The Bears running back rushed for a school-record 306 yards on Homecoming Day to pace Shaw past Livingstone 28-14 at Durham County Stadium on Saturday.
As good as he was during his prep days at Dunbar High School and in middle school, he’s never had a day like this.
“This is the best game I’ve had by far,” said Brandon, who had 49 carries, also a school record. “This is the biggest performance I’ve ever had in my life. But I couldn’t have done it without my O-linemen.”
Head Coach Adrian Jones was also impressed as the Bears racked up 345 rushing yards. They averaged 5.2 yards per carry.
“That’s big,” Jones said. “Not too many people can say they got 300 yards. That young man was running today, and we will continue to give him the ball.”
The win snapped a three-game losing skid and improved the Bears’ record to 3-3 in the CIAA Southern Division and 3-5 overall. The Blue Bears fell to 1-5 in the division and 2-6 overall.
Brandon scored two touchdowns, none more important than the five-yard jaunt to the end zone with 1:14 left in the game to ice the victory in front of jubilant Shaw fans who filled up their side of Durham Stadium. His score halted a comeback by Livingstone, which pulled within 21-14 after trailing 21-0 at halftime.
On the game-clinching drive, Brandon was the Bears’ workhorse. His number was called all eight plays and he responded with 45 yards, including rushes of 18 and 11 yards.
The school rushing record was broken at that point, but Brandon was not finished yet. Jaden Clark (So./Fairburn, GA) intercepted a pass for Shaw in the waning moments to give Brandon a shot at the 300-yard mark.
And Brandon didn’t disappoint. He gained seven and six yards on the game’s final two plays for a career high that may never be topped.
The record was announced over the PA system to the joy of Shaw fans and players.
The Bears’ sideline erupted as Brandon celebrated with his teammates. After the game, Coach Jones gave his standout back the game ball.
“At halftime, he had 22 carries, and we were going to ride him in the second half. A couple of times, we called timeout to let him get a breather and got him back in the game. I didn’t want anyone else in. If they couldn’t stop him, we were going to keep running him.”
“He definitely will need a whirlpool, some ice and all that stuff,” added Jones with a smile.
Brandon eclipsed the previous school record of 262 yards set by Byron Cary in 2003. His rushing total is currently the third highest by an individual in NCAA Division II this season.
Brandon admits he couldn’t have done it without his offensive line mashing the Livingstone defensive front.
“They mean a lot to me. I can’t do anything without the front line,” said Brandon, who displayed a blend of power and speed. “The game is won in the trenches. We kept pounding and pounding. We had a game plan, stuck to it, and came out with the W.”
Starting center Tyrese Bobbitt (Sr./Creedmoor, NC) says the offensive linemen and running backs are a tight-knit group which made the feat even more enjoyable to accomplish.
“It was absolutely amazing,” Bobbitt said. “I can’t say I expected this but I knew we would run for a lot. I didn’t know he would run for 300, though.”
The rushing record nearly overshadowed the play of the defense, especially the secondary, and the special teams units. The Bears picked off three passes, scored on a blocked punt and recovered a fumble from the Livingstone punter in Blue Bears’ territory.
The contributions were needed to fend off Livingstone, which rallied in the second half.
“We had some miscues, but at the end of the day our guys kept fighting,” Jones. “We were able to run the ball and move downfield.”
The Bears opened a 21-0 halftime lead on the strength of special teams, defense and their vaunted running attack. They scored on a blocked punt and intercepted two passes to stop potential scoring drives.
By halftime, Shaw had rushed for 191 yards, with Brandon gaining 146 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
The Bears stuck first in the first quarter when Jatoine Fields (Jr./Charlotte, NC) blocked a Livingstone punt, which Devin Lardge (Fr./Fredericksburg, VA) caught in the air and ran untouched nine yards to the end zone.
The touchdown sparked the Bears as Brandon scored on a 13-yard run the following drive to push the Bears’ lead to 14-0 in the first quarter.
Patrick Blake (R-Fr./Savannah, GA) capped the first-half scoring on a two-yard pass to Jon Barnes (Jr./Clayton, NC) right before halftime. Special teams set up the score when Fields recovered a fumble on fourth down in Livingstone territory when the punter bobbled the ball.
The Bears’ defense stood tall when it counted in the first half. Jalen Scroggins (Grad./Raleigh, NC) and Jay Boyd(Jr./Brevard County, FL) each thwarted promising Livingstone drives with interceptions in the Shaw end zone.
Livingstone got on the scoreboard in the third quarter on when Silas Cruse connected with Matthew Henry for a 16-yard touchdown pass. On Shaw’s next series, the Blue Bears climbed back in the contest on Jalen Hurt’s 18-yard fumble recovery to close within seven points.
But Shaw re-established its running game in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
“We’ve had a lot of starters down in our offensive line,” Jones said. “We got our starters back today and you could see a difference. They did a heck of a job.”
Led by Brandon and an offensive starting front of left tackle Ke Shaun Lancaster (Fr./Pinetop, NC), left guard Antavious Zachery (Jr./Decatur, GA), center Bobbitt, right guard Queonte Hilliard (So./Fayetteville, NC) and right tackle Isiah Palamore (Fr./Moultrie, GA), the Bears gained the win and momentum heading into next weekend’s contest against four-time Southern Division champ Fayetteville State in Fayetteville, N.C. on Oct. 29.
“What better way to win this game and get prepared for a tough team next week,” Jones said.