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After Rhode Island loss, Aggies prepare for Campbell and future recruiting


The final stanza of the 2023 A&T football season will be written this weekend, but head coach Vincent Brown is already working on the script for next year.

Promising to evaluate every aspect of his program over the next few weeks, Brown knows significant changes must be made in order to get the Aggies back on the winning path.

“It is our goal to constantly try to improve the talent on this roster,” said Brown, who will be completing his maiden voyage as a first-time head coach. “That’s how championship teams are built. You’re constantly looking to recruit, recruit, recruit and as we prepare for Campbell we’re looking at how we can improve our program. From A to Z, we're going to evaluate every aspect - from how we operate, how we eat, how we train, how we call plays, how we recruit. All those things are going to be evaluated.”

After ending last season with a 7-4 record and losing in the Big South conference championship game, A&T will stagger into Truist Stadium this Saturday with a 1-9 overall record and a 0-7 mark this year in the Coastal Athletic Association.

The Aggies face off against Campbell University at 1 p.m. in what will be the final home game for 27 senior and graduate players.

“We still have one more opportunity to practice and compete,” said Brown whose team lost 31-24 to Rhode Island last weekend after a costly fumble on their final possession. “Our goal is to make sure we send our seniors out on a positive note and we are doing everything in our power to prepare out team – those guys that what to be here, that want to finish this thing out the right way – to give our seniors a farewell exit that they deserve.”

In many ways, Campbell has endured a season rife with similar disappointment.

Despite having a high-powered offense and preseason expectations to compete for a conference title, the Camels enter the contest with a 4-6 overall record and 3-4 mark in the CAA.

Last week against Delaware they were blasted 45-7 and have now suffered three blowout losses in a row. Senior quarterback Haji-Malik Williams is still regarded as one of the most talented signal callers in the CAA and Campbell is currently ranked fifth in the conference in scoring offense, averaging 28.8 points per game.

A year ago, A&T and Campbell battled back and forth on Homecoming in an instant classic with the Aggies rallying from a 28-7 first half deficit to eventually prevailed 45-38. Williams had 482 yards of total offense in that game and two touchdowns.

Expect similar fireworks this Saturday as the A&T offense has finally come to life in recent weeks.

Last weekend against Rhode Island, redshirt freshman quarterback Eli Brickhandler had another inspiring performance, completing 12 of 18 passes for 161 yards and one touchdown while also rushing for 88 yards on the ground and another score. It was the second straight week that he taken command of the offense and displayed playmaking ability, after struggling mightily in his first two starts to begin the year.

Kenji Christian once again was the Aggies’ leading rusher, gaining 97 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries against Rhode Island. However, it was his final carry of game that left A&T fans devasted as he was stripped of the ball on the Ram’s 36-yard line as the Aggies were driving for a potential tying score in the final minutes.

Christian has now suffered fumbles in three straight weeks, including two fumbles on game-ending drives.

“We’re constantly preaching ‘carry the ball high and tight’, and you’ll see when the turnover happened he’s got the ball out here and the defender just put his hat on the ball," said Brown. "Kenji’s a conscientious young man. I’m sure he’ll learn from the mistake and we’ll continue to coach our players to get better.”

Throughout this frustrating campaign marked by close losses, costly miscues and the inevitable growing pains that come with having a young roster, Brown has worked hard to maintain a positive outlook.

Each week at the start of his Monday afternoon press conference, Brown would declare that it was a “great day in Aggieland” even if the previous contest resulted in a heartbreaking defeat.

“We felt going into this season that our goal was to make sure we were competitive in the CAA and for many of the games this season we have been,” said Brown. “We’ve come out on the wrong end of the final outcome obviously in nearly every game, but our goal has been to be competitive with a whole cast of new players on both sides of the ball.”