Aggies lose MEAC title gameA&T Sports and Peacemaker Staff Reports / November 23, 2016
DURHAM – More than 11,000 loyal Aggie and Eagle fans gathered at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium on the North Carolina Central University campus for a battle royale between the Eagles and the Aggies of North Carolina A&T State University.
The Aggies were handily defeated by the Eagles, 42-21. NCCU now earns a birth to the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl, where they will face the winner of the SWAC Conference.
No matter what happens going forward, the North Carolina A&T Aggies’ football program will finish with their third consecutive season of nine or more wins, their second straight 7-win season in the conference and their second straight season of finishing nationally ranked.
But as a somber A&T head coach Rod Broadway sat talking to the media following the Aggies’ loss to Central Saturday afternoon at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium, the veteran coach understands the college football business well enough to know the impact of A&T’s latest defeat to NCCU.
“It’s not always about what your record is, as much as it is about who you lose to,” said Broadway. “To be sitting here with three straight losses to your archrival is tough to handle. People tend to forget you went 9-2 when you lose to your archrival like this. That’s the world we live in. But give Central credit, they played their butts off and did an outstanding job.”
The win gives NCCU (9-2, 8-0 MEAC) the outright MEAC title, their first since 1973. It also earns the Eagles an Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl invitation as the MEAC representative. The Aggies are hoping for an at-large bid into the field of 24 after earning an FBS win over Kent State and having their only two losses come at the hands of FBS Tulsa and nationally-ranked NCCU.
“We didn’t look like ourselves Saturday. I thought we were prepared. I thought we were ready, but we just made too many mistakes today,” said Broadway. “That team today had on our uniforms, but they were not who we have been all year.”
NCCU rushed for 270 yards which is the most rushing yards surrendered during the six-season Broadway era. The Eagles also had two 100-yard rushers in quarterback Malcolm Bell (131 yards 16 carries, two touchdowns) and running back Dorrel McClain (109 yards, 14 carries, three touchdowns). Going into the game there had only been seven 100-yard rushers in the previous 67 games against the Aggies.
On the offensive side, N.C. A&T played without starting quarterback Lamar Raynard for the second straight game. Fifth-year quarterback Oluwafemi Bamiro, who led the Aggies to the FBS win over Kent State on Sept. 10 in relief and who won his start last week at Delaware State, had his struggles on Saturday. Bamiro completed only 12 of his 33 pass attempts and one touchdown pass and two interceptions.
The Eagles also did an exceptional job covering All-American running back Tarik Cohen who rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. He came into the game averaging 8.7 yards per carry. Broadway said he thought a few big pass plays would eventually come to free up Cohen from the eight and nine-man fronts NCCU showed N.C. A&T most of the afternoon. But other than an 86-yard catch and run TD reception to freshman Elijah Bell in the third quarter, those big plays never came.