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Vikings set to face visiting Golden Bulls

Vikings host Johnson C. Smith today at 1 p.m.

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By Craig Moyer
Sports Writer

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Elizabeth City State hosts Johnson C. Smith in the Vikings first Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association home game of the season today in Roebuck Stadium at 1 p.m.

ECSU (2-1) is coming off a thrilling 45-42 win over Fayetteville State in the Down East Viking Football Classic in Rocky Mount and will look to record their first home win of the season.

The Vikings’ offense, which is second in the conference with 31 points per game, should have success against the Golden Bulls’ defense, which has allowed 41 points per game this season.

Johnson C. Smith (0-3) has also struggled offensively, as they were shut out last week and have averaged a conference-low eight points per game this season.

ECSU head coach Earnest Wilson said Johnson C. Smith’s record does not reflect their talent level, as they have lost to three talented teams, including D1 South Carolina State and Virginia State, one of the CIAA’s top teams.

“We are not overlooking anyone this season, because we do not have the depth to do so,” Wilson said. “They have played three really tough teams and we need to be ready.”

The Vikings were favored in last season’s meeting, as the Golden Bulls entered the game with an 0-3 record then as well, but came away with a 31-28 win at home in the team’s first meeting since 2010.

ECSU’s success on the offensive side will depend on the play of quarterback Daquan Neal, who performed well in the Vikings’ two wins, but struggled in their loss.

Neal has averaged 260 passing yards per game this season, with a 63.1 completion percentage and eight touchdowns.

The senior has also rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns.

Neal’s go-to target in the passing game has been SayQuan Holder, a junior from Hertford, who has caught 13 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns this season and is fifth in the conference with 70.7 receiving yards per game.

Another important factor in the success of ECSU’s offense is their offensive line, a unit that is young and inexperienced, but is showing improvement as the season progresses.

After allowing just two sacks in their season opening win, the offensive line allowed 11 sacks in the loss to UNCP, but responded by allowing no sacks in the Vikings’ win over Fayetteville State.

While the Vikings’ offense has shown their ability to light up the scoreboard, their defense has struggled to keep opponents off the board, allowing 43.7 points per game, third most in the conference.

Wilson said he wants to see his young defensive unit improve every day and that he has seen them learning from their mistakes already this season.

“We need to improve our tackling, but the guys are talking about their mistakes and putting them to work,” Wilson said.

With Neal being the only senior starter on offense and just three seniors starting on defense, the Vikings will look to improve with added experience as the season goes on and will return most of their starters next season.

The Golden Bulls will certainly prove to be a good test for the Vikings, as they look to pick up their first home win of the season and start the season 1-0 in conference play.

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