After a much-needed week of rest and recalculation, the A&T football team returned from its bye last Saturday and enjoyed a confidence-boosting 45-7 rout over Division II Edward Waters.
The Aggies will now look to continue that momentum this weekend as they travel up to Pennsylvania to face Big South foe Robert Morris, a team that is winless on the season at 0-6 but still poses a serious threat to A&T’s conference title hopes.
Kickoff is set for 1PM on Saturday at the 3,000-seat Joe Walton Stadium.
“They’re at home, they’re looking for their first win, and they’re going to do any and everything possible to accomplish that,” said A&T head coach Sam Washington. “We can’t fall into a trap and not practice as if they were 6-0. This game is more about us and how we can continue to get better.”
Last year, A&T dismantled the Colonials 41-14 at Truist Stadium, in what was the first-ever Big South meeting for both schools.
Robert Morris would join A&T in a four-way tie for third place in the conference standings at the end of last year, finishing 4-6 overall.
This season the Colonials have suffered blowout losses in their first two Big South games – including a 41-10 loss at Campbell last Saturday – and even dropped an ugly 14-9 result to MEAC member Delaware State.
They have used four different quarterbacks on the season with limited success, averaging just 231.4 yards of total offense and 9.2 points per game.
Conversely, the Aggies offense has been well-balanced in recent weeks and now appear ready to live to up to those lofty preseason expectations.
A&T graduate quarterback Jalen Fowler completed a career-high 20 passes on 26 attempts on Saturday against EWU, throwing for 243 yards and two touchdowns.
He seems to have finally solidified the A&T starting quarterback job, thanks in part to his own development, as well as injuries suffered by Eli Brickhandler and Zach Yeager.
“I’ve just tried to have a clear mind and stay focused so when my chance does come, I can be as ready as possible,” said Fowler, who had one of the best performances of his career against Robert Morris last season throwing for 206 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 76 yards.
Against Edward Waters, the Aggies were also able to get some valuable experience for some of the younger players on their depth chart.
“Pretty much everyone who dressed out played,” said Washington. “That’s rare. Pretty much 99 percent of the people who dressed out for us actually got a chance to play in a live football game. And I thought they did well.”
Sophomore running back Bhayshul Tuten tied Tarik Cohen the school record for five consecutive games of at least 100 yards rushing when he recorded 103 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries against Edward Waters.
Tuten reached the century mark in just two quarters last Saturday, and departed the contest so fellow freshman running backs Wesley Graves (44 yards and one touchdown on eight carries) and Charlie Dixon (71 yards and one touchdown on 10 carries) could have a chance to shine.
A&T’s Blue Death Defense has been especially dominant during this current winning streak, holding its last three opponents to just 3.7 rushing yards per game and forcing 9 turnovers during that span.
Graduate defensive end Jermain McDaniel has been a man on fire since missing the first four games of the year, recording a career-high four sacks against EWU and now has five tackles for loss and a forced fumble in just two games.
“As a defense, we know that the ball is ours so we try to take it away from the [opposing] offense every chance we get,” said McDaniel. “We want to put our offense in a better position to score, if not score a touchdown ourselves.”
Washington said fellow senior defensive end Devin Harrell, who was carted off the field against Edward Waters, was still being evaluated for a severe stinger injury. He reportedly lost some feeling in the left side of his body after colliding with a teammate but has since regained full motion.
A&T currently has the top-rated defense in the Big South conference and is ranked seventh in the nation.
“I thought we got better as a football team last week,” said Washington, whose team now has a chance to get over .500 for the first time this year, after suffering an 0-3 start. “We’re headed in the right direction. We’re not exactly where we’d like to be, but we’re much better than a week ago.”