Donovan Rose and Matt Kelchner are both still waiting, six games into the season, for complete games from their football teams.
Rose's Hampton University Pirates, which play host to N.C. Central on Saturday, are coming off a lackluster 34-24 loss at Norfolk State, while Kelchner's Christopher Newport Captains try to keep an eight-game conference winning streak alive against North Carolina Wesleyan. Each coach's team still has a conference championship in its sights, but each knows that elusive complete game will be necessary to achieve that goal.
HU (3-3, 1-2 MEAC) will need some help atop the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference standings if it's to win its first league title since 2006, though Thursday's loss by Norfolk State (6-2, 4-1) to Bethune-Cookman (4-3, 2-2) was a start.
"Mathematically, we could win, but we can't control it," Rose said. "Hopefully we can finish strong, and let it take care of itself."
Winning out (the Pirates have games left against Savannah State, Howard, Delaware State and Morgan State) would give HU an 8-3 overall record and a 6-2 MEAC mark, and "I told the guys that's not negotiable," Rose said. "That's what we know we have to finish."
First up is N.C. Central (1-5, 0-3 MEAC). The Eagles, losers of four straight games, have been outscored by 73 points this season and are giving up 401 yards per game.
"They're trying to find themselves," Rose said. "We want them to find themselves after they play us."
The Captains (4-2, 3-0 USA South), picked to defend their conference title in preseason voting by league coaches, rallied from a 14-0 deficit to beat Averett 23-14 last weekend. N.C. Wesleyan (2-4, 2-1) beat Greensboro 31-19 and won 35-7 two seasons ago in its last trip to POMOCO Stadium.
"They're really good and no question, they have the most team speed of any team we've played this year so far," Kelchner said. "There's a little more sense of urgency. They do a lot of different things to spread you out. You gotta run fast, and you can't miss tackles in the open field against these guys, or there won't be anybody else around the way they spread it out."
The Bishops were picked to finish second in the USA South, and last season, tied CNU with a 6-1 conference mark. However, the Captains' 23-15 win in Rocky Mount, N.C., gave them the league crown and automatic Division III playoff bid.
"They're always prepared and well-coached," Kelchner said. "We know we will have our hands full."
The Captains, led by sophomore running back Markeese Stovall's league-best 126.7 rushing yards per game, average a conference-best 387 yards per game. The Bishops average 349 yards and 20.7 points per game to CNU's 25.7 ppg.
After Saturday's homecoming game, CNU has road games at Greensboro and Ferrum before closing the regular season at home against Maryville on Nov. 12.
Like the Pirates, who close the regular season with three home games, the Captains' goals are in front of them. But both teams have to start with wins Saturday.
"Right now, we just focus on winning every Saturday," senior HU wide receiver Isiah Thomas said. "There's a lot of things that have to happen for us to win it, but it's not out of the equation. It's still right there."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun