North Carolina A&T State’s first game against East Carolina was played Sunday rather than Saturday as scheduled because of thunderstorms in Greenville, N. C. The result was worth the wait. The Aggies, who play at the FCS level, upset the Pirates – an FBS program – 28-23 on their home field.
The Aggies have now beaten an FBS opponent in three consecutive seasons. They defeated North Carolina Charlotte last year and Kent State in 2016. The victory extends North Carolina A&T’s winning streak to 14 consecutive games, and it gives first-year, first-time head coach Sam Washington a 2-0 career record.
The win is being billed as the biggest in school history, bigger than the Aggies’ victory last week against Jacksonville State, which was ranked No. 6 in the FCS preseason poll and had won 41 consecutive games against FCS opponents, bigger than their Celebration Bowl victories against Grambling State last season and Alcorn State in 2015 and bigger than their two previous FBS wins.
Just like in their season opening win against Jacksonville State, the Aggies’ defense came up with big plays at the end of the game to preserve the victory. A short punt and a 15-yard return gave the Pirates at first down at the Aggies’ 27 with 4:09 left in the game. East Carolina turned the ball over on downs with 2:07 remaining after gaining only five yards.
East Carolina got another shot at winning the game when North Carolina A&T’s offense went three-and-out. The Pirates took over at their 38 with no timeouts and 2:07 left in the game. They moved into North Carolina A&T territory, but Timadre Abram intercepted Reid Herring’s Hail Mary pass in the end zone as time expired.
Backup quarterback Kylil Carter was the offensive hero for the Aggies. Carter entered the game in the fourth quarter and threw a pair of touchdown passes, a xx toss that Leslie Zachary snared with one hand in the end zone while being held by a defender that gave the Aggies a 21-20 lead and a 17-yard catch-and-run score to Elijiah Bell for their final points.
Cornerback Mac McCain intercepted a Herring pass in the back of the end zone and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown for the Aggies first touchdown and a 7-3 lead. The Aggies’ other touchdown came on a 12-yard pass from starting quarterback Lamar Raynard to Leslie in the second quarter after East Carolina had gone ahead 17-7. Raynard improved his record as the Aggies starting quarterback to 28-0.
Alabama State 26, Tuskegee 20, OT – Hornets fans can finally exhale. Their team defeated the Golden Tigers at ASU Stadium for their first win against their arch-rivals since 2011. It was just their third victory in the last 14 meetings between the schools that are separated by a mere 38 miles on Interstate 85. The Golden Tigers had been 2-0 at ASU Stadium, which opened in 2012 – the last time the teams met prior to last season. Tuskegee, which leads the all-time series 62-34-4, appeared poised to remain unbeaten in the Hornets’ nest after scoring on its opening possession courtesy Kenny Gant’s 13-yard touchdown run.
Gant gashed the Hornets for 81 yards. But Alabama State held together and pulled out the victory in Coach Donald Hill-Eley’s debut in the rivalry when Ezra Gray bolted 30 yards into the end zone on the Hornets’ first play from scrimmage in overtime. Hill-Eley took over the reins on an interim basis five games into last season and led the Hornets to five wins in their final six games.
They maintained that momentum in their season opener, but it wasn’t pretty – for either side. The Hornets only rushed for 128 yards; they didn’t convert a third after the first quarter, and their defense allowed 482 yards, including 273 on the ground. The Golden Tigers had three turnovers – all coming when they seemed to be on the verge of scoring – and Alabama State converted them into 10; they were 1-for-4 in red zone scoring chances; they had two field goals blocked, and they committed 19 penalties for 185 yards.
This one has been so long overdue for our student body and our community,’’ Hill-Eley said, “and I am glad that we were able to afford that to them.’’ This was a game that the Hornets had to win to avoid their season essentially being over before it started. Their next four games are at Auburn, an FBS opponent; at Kennesaw State, No. 5 in the FCS preseason rankings after qualifying for the playoffs last season when they were 12-2; versus Grambling State, the defending SWAC champion, and at Alcorn State, the four-time defending SWAC East champion. With a loss to Tuskegee, a 0-5 start was a real possibility. That possibility went out the window as the Hornets, who never led until the final play, hung tough all game long.
The game-changing play came at 9:37 left in the game with Tuskegee leading 20-13. Running back Justice Owens, who rambled for 97 yards for the Golden Tigers, connected with Peyton Ramzy who had gotten behind the Hornets’ secondary. Ramzy was headed for a 65-yard touchdown reception that would have given Tuskegee a two-touchdown lead, but defensive back Joshua Hill tackled Ramzy from behind Ramzy. The ball came out before Ramzy crossed the goal line, and the officials ruled the play a touchback. Alabama State promptly drove 80 yards in 10 plays and tied the score on quarterback Darryl Pearson’s nine-yard run with 5:09 left in the game.
Tenn. State 34, Bethune-Cookman 3 –- “Big’’ John Merritt, the late great Tigers coaching legend had to be smiling, wherever he is, and puffing on his trademark cigar following the Big Blue’s dominant performance in their victory over the Wildcats in the 20th annual classic that bears his name. Tennessee State amassed 525 yards total offense, with 324 coming through the air while only allowing 66 rushing yards and forcing a pair of turnovers.
The Big Blue dominated time of possession, controlling the ball for more than 35 minutes. Chris Rowland was the Tigers’ offensive star with 154 yards on seven receptions. Rowland also had 64 yards on four punt returns, and he gained eight yards rushing for 226 all-purpose yards. The victory was the eighth for the Big Blue in 10 games against Bethue-Cookman.
Prairie View A&M 40, North Carolina Central 24 – The Panthers started fast, hit a lull, and then pulled away for a rare SWAC victory in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge in Atlanta. Prairie View scored on its first two possessions and cruised to a 20-0 second-quarter lead. The Eagles, who got on the scoreboard with a field goal just before halftime, found their offense in the third quarter and trailed 26-21 going into the fourth period. They added another field goal early in the fourth quarter to come within two points of the lead at 26-24.
Prairie View responded with a pair of touchdowns to seal the win and narrow the MEAC’s advantage in the series to 9-4. The 2016 MEAC/SWAC Challenge was declared no contest when the game was halted with 7:14 remaining because of lightning with Alcorn State leading Bethune-Cookman 13-17. Dawonya Tucker was a one-man wrecking crew for Prairie View with a career high 267 rushing yards, including a 68-yard run. The Panthers amassed 656 total yards as quarterback Jalen Morton passed for 264 yards and a pair of touchdowns. North Carolina Central quarterback Chauncey Caldwell had 269 yards passing with a pair of touchdowns. But Eagles only generated 127 yards with their running game.
Morehouse 34, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 30 – Playing up a level, the Division II Maroon Tigers used a goal line stand in the waning seconds to preserve a road victory. The Golden Lions had the ball at the Morehouse three-yard line when William Callaway, a transfer from Presbyterian College, sacked quarterback Shannon Patrick, who completed 17 of 25 passes for 451 yards and three touchdowns in the game. The ball came loose and freshman defensive back Ben Goins fell on it for the Maroon Tigers with five seconds left.
The victory for Morehouse avenges losses to UAPB the past two years. The Maroon Tigers never trailed after taking a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. The contest was a battle of contrasting offensive styles. Morehouse’s running game produced 305 yards. Santo Dunn led the Maroon Tigers’ ground attack with 159 yards on 14 carries, and he scored a pair of touchdowns; Frank Bailey Jr., his running mate, added 106 yards on 14 carries; UAPB passed for 463 yards. Josh Wilkes had seven catches for 244 yards and two touchdowns for the Golden Lions.
Alabama-Birmingham 52, Savannah State 0
Buffalo 48, Delaware State 10
East Carolina, North Carolina A&T
Florida A&M 41, Fort Valley 7
Georgia Southern 37, South Carolina State 6
Ohio University 38, Howard 32
Norfolk State 34, Virginia State 13
Towson 36, Morgan State 10
Alabama A&M 37, Miles 0
Georgia Tech 41, Alcorn State 0
Louisiana-Lafayette 49, Grambling State 17
North Dakota 35, Mississippi Valley State 7
Southern Mississippi 54, Jackson State 7
TCU 55, Southern University 7
Texas Southern 26, UT-Permian 16
Campbell 49, Chowan 26
Elizabeth City State 19, Central Stat 10
Fayetteville State 32, Lincoln (Pa.) 10
Jacksonville 63, Saint Augustine’s 14
Pikeville 52, Livingstone 23
Virginia Union 34, Seton Hill 28, OT
Wagner 40, Bowie State 23
Wingate 36, Johnson C. Smith 0
Winston-Salem State 23, UNC Pembroke 20
Florida Tech 33, Benedict 14
Mississippi College 31, Clark Atlanta 30
Morehouse 34, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 30
Slippery Rock 38, Kentucky State 31
Valdosta State 45, Albany State 14
Hampton 38, Shaw 10
Lincoln (Mo.) 10, Lane 7
Lindsey Wilson 50, Edward Waters 13
West Virginia State 51, University of Charleston 28
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