NORTH ANDOVER — Merrimack head coach Dan Curran said in the preseason that sophomore quarterback Christian Carter had a much better command of the offense entering his second season as the Warriors’ starter.
That command was on display Saturday afternoon, as Carter helped lead the Warriors to a 45-14 win over Virginia of Lynchburg in the program’s inaugural game as a Division I FCS program.
Carter threw for a modest 163 yards, but he was ultra-efficient, completing 72 percent of his passes (18 for 25) and that included a gorgeous touchdown pass to Johnny Rosario in the corner of the end zone late in the second quarter.
“He’s just scraping the tip of the iceberg,” said Curran. “He’s playing at a very high level and he has complete and total command of the offense.”
Carter was named NE10 Rookie of the Year last season, despite playing in just six games due to injury. The Baltimore native threw for 1,681 yards last season with a 51.7 percent completion rate, throwing 16 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
“He has it all figured out right now,” Curran said. “The more reps he gets, the calmer he will be working to our checks. Then he’s obviously a threat in the run game. We were riding him in the run game but he was being smart and disciplined. He has options on every play and multiple tags but he didn’t get antsy. He stayed true to the read and got the ball where it belonged.
“Especially in our system, the quarterback is like the point guard,” Curran said. “He needs to distribute the football and he did a great job of that.”
As Curran said, Carter was also a threat in the run game, rushing for 57 yards on eight carries. Last season Carter rushed for 465 yards on 87 carries and two touchdowns.
He’s a threat in the run game, but he’s showing more poise as a passer, sticking with routes longer and getting the ball to his targets. He’s not so quick to tuck the ball and run, according to his coach.
“Our tempo is a lot better,” Carter said. “We’re moving faster. For me, I think that comes from understanding more and recognizing more coverages. When I first got here I saw a lot of the RPOs and it was more open. Now this year, I feel like I’m able to check more and get us in the right looks.”
Carter had a run in the first half of the season opener where he barreled through a VUL defensive lineman and was able to get the ball inside the 5-yard line.
“It’s always fun running the ball,” Carter said with a smirk, “but I need to learn how to slide.”
In the passing game, Carter has a unique blend of receivers. Rosario is a big threat on the outside and in the red zone, as he displayed on Saturday. Marquise Spence has electric speed and he’s fearless going up for balls and Anthony Norcia was creating matchup problems in the slot.
Spence led the Warriors with seven catches for 60 yards.
“We have a really good blend of receivers,” Carter said. “We had Cody (Demers) last year and guys are stepping up into his role. But across the field, it’s a good blend of different guys with different styles. They can dominate the field and get open.”
Merrimack travels to Central Connecticut for its first Northeast Conference game this Saturday (6 p.m.). The game will be televised and streamed on ESPN3.
Merrimack’s only other game against Central Connecticut was in Sept. of 2007, where the Warriors lost, 45-7. The Warriors had more turnovers (4) than first downs (3) and gained just 38 yards of total offense.