The Trash Talk Bowl

by Craig R. Turner
Published: November 18, 2012

It time now for the 84th meeting of the North Carolina A&T and North Carolina Central University in football in one of the longest and most heated rivalries in all of college football.

Sure there may be more nationally acclaimed rivalries out there like Ohio State-Michigan, Alabama- Auburn, USC-UCLA, Miami-Florida State, Grambling-Southern just to name a few.

However, for sheer intensity, demonstrative allegiance, and really heart felt dislike for one another on the football field, none of them could match the A&T-NCCU blood feud.

Short of the Hatfields and McCoys and their unholy penchant for the use of firearms to settle their disputes, A&T and Central has always been a war of words, sneers, inferiority complexes, and insults, sometimes heated, sometimes in jest, but always turned full blast on year round anytime these two institutions meet on the fields and courts of athletic competition.

Which side of the battle you may stand on between these two universities is often determined sometime shortly after birth and before the first steps that a child may take.

On growing up in my home, I can vividly remember from the around the time I entered the first grade in the early sixties the stories told to me by my parents, uncles and aunts that what was then North Carolina College (NCCU) was somewhere located deep inside the underworld second only to hell itself.

It was place of darkness and drabness as evidenced by display of the cold and depressing color combination of maroon and gray.

Their mascot was nothing more than a gloried crow with its head having being dunked in a bucket of white paint trying to pass itself off as some fearsome bird of prey.

On yes, there has never been any love for Eagles in the Turner household. My brothers and I have carried on that tradition by getting our children understand that they were never to mention NCCU in our presence when they began to apply to their college choices. Family disownment awaited them if they did.

They too listened to us as we had listened to our parents about the horrors that awaited them in Durham if they ever ventured eastward. The feeling must have gotten through because Central never made their list. The colleges picked now range from Iowa State, N.C. State, J.C. Smith, UVA, and always back to N.C. A&T.

All joking aside, The A&T-NCCU battle has returned to the year ending battle as it was back when I was an undergrad back in the 1970’s. That battle set the tone for a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday for the winner or a vow of “wait until next year” for the loser. I love having this game being placed on the end of the regular season schedule.

One of my fondest and most satisfying memories of this year ending duel was when Alan Hooker led A&T’s 1986 championship team into Durham and he single handedly emptied out the stands by halftime, scoring touchdowns at will and jumping A&T out to a 28-0 lead at halftime before cruising by the Eagles to the tune of 49-16.

That had climaxed a morning of a lot of pre-game jack jawing, jeers, and many wolf tickets being sold along Fayetteville Street as A&T fans rolled into the entrance to the O’Kelly-Riddick Field as part of a capacity crowd that drizzly afternoon.

Man was that sweet. You could not find a Eagle anywhere with a whole quarter left to play.

This year both teams have ended up on the positive side of the won-loss record meaning both have made significant progress in the second year of under Henry Frazier and Rod Broadway.

Both of these teams picked by many to be at or near the bottom of the MEAC but they are battling it out for third place in the league ahead of some of recent championship programs of the last decade in SCSU, FAMU, Norfolk, and Hampton.

Something tells me by this time next season, the game in Greensboro will have something far more valuable at stake than just a third place finish, a 7-4 record, and bragging rights.

What you may be seeing on Saturday is a preview of what I think will soon become the norm, a throw back if you will, to the glory days of the CIAA and the early MEAC when these two schools ruled the gridiron. It was and still is all or nothing.

 

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Now everyone I could see on the various message boards on the internet have pretty much been divided down the middle on their pick according to their favorite team. Those fans that don’t have a dog in this fight have spilt into partisan camps, some for the Eagles and some for the Aggies.

Don’t ask me why but passions really run high even among bystanders when the Aggies and the Eagles face each other in anything competitive.

Moreover, competitive is what this game will be. NCU has lived off its special teams scoring and its bend but don’t break defense getting the Eagles just over the hump in some very close last minute victories this season.

The Eagles are adept at blocking punts and returning kicks for touchdowns to make up for the lack of offensive points.

The Eagles have been something less than spectacular in running the football but the insertion at mid season of senior backup Jordan Reid gave them at shot in the arm at quarterback but it also has produced lot of unforced turnovers for the Eagles as of late.

NCCU’s defense gives up a lot yards between the twenties but have gotten tough in the red zone when they have had to.

On the other hand, A&T has put together one of the toughest and stingiest defenses that I’ve seen in quite a while, ranked second in the nation among FCS teams and leads the MEAC in fewest yards and points while playing the last 14 quarters without giving up a offensive touchdown.

A&T’s offense has seen both good and bad times this season because of injuries along the offensive line and spotty quarterback play.

The Aggies have had to patch up the offensive line every week without the same starting five since game five.

To counter that problem the Aggies have gone very conservative using a grind it out running game and improved field goal kicking to win three straight and four of their last five games.

Using alternating quarterbacks since the 30-9 rout of Norfolk State has not been pretty but it’s been enough to beat both FAMU and SCSU although the A&T defense and special teams have had a bigger hand in those wins than the offense.

No one can debate A&T’s running game has been consistent, averaging 6.8 yards per carry the last three games. That is what A&T does best and they have been able to do most all of it from the third quarter on when it counted the most.

The offensive line has controlled the line of scrimmage, the clock, and eventually broken the will of its opponents.

There in lies the rub. The imposition of one squad’s will over another. This is a rivalry game so it will be a close contest with a lot of ebbs and flows.

What A&T has to do defensively is what they have done over the last three weeks. Play disciplined, aggressively, and attack on defense then make sure they account for return specialist Arthur Goforth on punts and kickoffs.

Ball security has been a problem for the Eagles and Henry Frazier keeps talking about the fact the Eagles have turned the ball over with regularity. This A&T defense is not forgiving. Need proof? Go ask Buddy Pough, Joe Taylor, and Pete Adrian.

Offensively, the A&T quarterbacks have to hit enough passes on early downs to keep the offense in second and short or medium yardage. Five to six yards off of a first down play makes a huge difference.

If A&T can hit its open throws underneath on a questionable Eagle secondary the running game can then take over. That will be the key to winning for the first time on the road this season and ending this season riding a wave of momentum into 2013.

This will be a nail biter but you have to go with the better defense in a rivalry game.

 

Prediction

N. C. A&T – 19

NCCU – 16