North Carolina Central University has landed over 3,000 miles away from home to take on nationally-ranked UCLA on Saturday.
Head coach Trei Oliver knows that his nationally-ranked NCCU squad will have its hands full on the West Coast.
“It’s a big game. And watching film all night last night, these guys are big and physical and fast and well coached and everything else,” Oliver said earlier this week. They got two first-round draft picks about defensive ends and they’re really, really good. They’re really good. They’re a top-25 team. So we have to do what we talked about all year. We have to we have to start fast and give our chance ourselves a chance in the first quarter. We can’t get down bad in the first quarter. We had to win the middle eight minutes to last four of the first half in the first quarter, second half. And then lastly, get the game to the fourth quarter, give yourself a chance.”
That will be quite a challenge with Chip Kelly on the opposite sideline, and Oliver is quite aware of that. UCLA comes into this contest with a 2-0 record on the season. It is scoring an average of 31.0 points per contest, with a total of eight touchdowns on the year. The UCLA defense is conceding an average of 11.5 points per game.
“They’re a very, very fast-paced team. Coach Kelly, he’s a mastermind when it comes to offense,” Oliver said. “So we have to limit the explosive plays and just can’t give them cheap stuff. You know, we’ve got to make them work for it. And just the same thing with every week, we can’t let people just have explosive plays on ones like this. So we just need to limit those.”
North Carolina Central University has a potent offense of its own, as it comes in averaging 38 points per game. It is led by quarterback Davius Richard who has six touchdowns — three in the air and three on the ground — and is averaging 6.2 yards per rush while completing 67 percent of his passes. Saturday’s game against UCLA may be his best chance to impress NFL scouts as he hopes to become the first quarterback drafted from an HBCU since 2006.
“Our guys got to grow up and grow up fast. You know, nobody’s going to feel sorry for you or anything like that,” Oliver said. “That’s why I put this game on the schedule for us to get tested and we’ll get tested. You know, we’ve had, I think, 28 teams from the NFL coming here evaluating our guys, and they don’t want to see our guys against Division II or Division III opponents. They want to see our guys against draft picks from these D1 schools and see how we hold up. So it’ll be it’ll definitely a test for us and you know, we’ve got to do a great job and come up with a great game plan to try to slow these guys down. But they are game-changers. They’re game changers.”
North Carolina Central arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday to get acclimated on a trip that was booked three years ago. UCLA AD Martin Jarmond’s late mother went to NCCU which was a big part of why he scheduled this game along with last season’s game against Alabama State during the pandemic.
“It’s a great opportunity for our guys and us to take our brand across the country and go over to the West Coast,” Oliver said. “We have a great alumni base over there and they are very supportive.”