Saturday’s game was billed as the ‘Hall of Fame’ game for North Carolina Central as it took on Campbell in O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium.
Although he’s still got half a season left in his illustrious career, Davius Richard might as well have had stood up at halftime and gotten inducted right then.
The senior from Belle Glade, FL put on a performance for the ages to lead NCCU to a 49-48 comeback win after trailing by 21 points in the first half. Richard put the team on his back with four rushing touchdowns in the first three quarters to keep his team in the game as his defense struggled to stop Hajj-Malik Williams, who threw for five passes of his own.
“He’s a warrior. And he’s coming off an injury, banged up. He pushed through and fought through, but I can’t say enough,” head coach Trei Oliver said after the game. “He’s got that thermostat mentality. He’s calm and cool. You know, not too high, not too low. But he’s just a warrior man. I can’t say enough about him.”
Richard threw his lone passing touchdown with 11:06 left in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 35. Then he led a seven-play, 49 yard drive that put his team up 42-35. Then he drove the team down the field in a two-minute drill to set up a 43-yard, potential game-winning field goal for Adrian Olivio as the clock went down to the final seconds.
Olivio missed the kick, sending the game into overtime. The first player to meet him on the sideline and give him encouraging words was Davius Richard.
“He just told me to keep my head up and, you know, just on to the next one. And that’s our culture here,” Olive said after the game. “All the guys surround each other. It’s about us. And that’s who we are as a team. And that’s how we can rely on each other.”
Richard spoke from experience. Nearly two years earlier he led North Carolina Central to a similar comeback win against Norfolk State after committing early mistakes and getting down 21 points. He led the team to a 38-36 overtime win over NSU.
“Just knowing I’ve been in that position before as far as a bad play or not performing good and stuff like that, so I just went over there and told him, ‘hey bruh, you good like we got you,” Richard said of his message to Olivio. “Defense, got you. Offense got you — go out and make it make whatever happens.”
A botched extra point on Campbell’s overtime touchdown opened the door for NCCU to finish the game. Richard handed the ball off to Latrell Collier who ran 25 yards into the end zone to tie the game at 48.
Out trotted Olivio, who calmly knocked down the extra point to win the game before taking off on a victory lap as no. 13 North Carolina Central sent Campbell back to Buies Creek with a loss.
Richard finished the day with 365 yards of total offense and completed 21 of his 34 pass attempts. After the game he was asked about drops his receivers made, but he pointed the finger back at himself and away from them.
“I mean, you can look at it bad all you want but at the end of the day — look at the score,” Richard said. “They did what they needed to do at the end of the day to secure the win. So I’m not even worried about the mess-up. I mean, we’ll get in the film room, fix on it, all right? But right now, the only thing that matters is the score.”
Davius Richard once again put his team on his shoulders and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, while building up his teammates and pushing for their best. It was a hall of fame performance on many levels, and one they’ll be talking about for some time.
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