HAMPTON — After two lopsided losses to open the season, Hampton University was optimistic Saturday's home opener against Tennessee Tech would yield positive signs for the team. It did, but the result was still the same as HU lost a tough battle against the Golden Eagles, 30-27 at Armstrong Stadium.
"This is our third loss, so right now everything that's happening to us is a reflection of what we are doing," said HU coach Donovan Rose, who was visibly frustrated with the team's performance. "We have to clean it up if we want to get better."
It's no secret that Hampton has struggled on offense to start the season. The Pirates scored a total of 16 points in its first two games. Earlier in the week, Rose said the team was searching for an identity and looked to his line to be the X-factor in turning the offense around.
Quarterback Jaylian "J.J." Williamson carried the offensive load for the Pirates, passing for 190 yards and two touchdowns, but Hampton struggled to run the ball and managed only 55 yards on the ground.
Hampton's biggest struggles came in its inability to make third-down conversions. The Pirates only converted two of their 12 opportunities.
"I'm 18 years old, I'm still young," Williamson said. "I come out here every week and get more experience with every game I play and every practice I take."
The Pirates had a 13-10 lead at halftime and appeared to be in control of the game after Williamson hit Antwon Chisholm on a 23-yard crossing route for a touchdown to put HU up 20-10 with 9:58 to go in the third quarter.
But the second half saw HU make some costly mistakes as well. Clinging to a 20-17 lead, the Pirates gambled on a fourth-and-6 pass play when Williamson overthrew his intended man and HU turned the ball over on downs.
Tennessee Tech capitalized on the mistake and kicked a field goal on the ensuing possession to tie the game at 20.
HU's next drive ended in a third-down sack, and Tech scored again to go up by three.
The Pirates had a chance to get the ball back on the Golden Eagles' next drive, but quarterback Darian Stone converted a 35-yard pass play on fourth-and-13 with four minutes to go in the game to put HU in a 10-point hole.
Hampton scored again, but ran out of time to make a miracle comeback.
"There was no reason for us to lose this game," Williamson said. "We started off a little sluggish, but we got it going and we took our foot off the pedal and slowed down. We can't get comfortable at all."