A&T Holds Off Bucs, Snaps Losing Streak
By Tyler Ball, Guest Analyst
Published: November 10, 2021

N.C. A&T found a winning formula, finally. The ingredients were a record setting defensive effort, a couple of big plays by the offense and special teams, and a strong gust of 18 mile-an-hour winds, which all added up to a 21-18 victory over Charleston Southern on the road. The win improved the Aggies record to 4-5 overall and 3-3 in the school’s first season in the Big South Conference. The win snapped a five-game road losing streak, dating back to the 2019 season. While the win looked great on the scoreboard, things really got ugly in the fourth quarter, as the Buccaneers took advantage of a mistake-filled second half by the Aggies to get back into the contest. Charleston Southern even had a chance to win, but Joseph Stuckey punctuated the day of defense with a game sealing interception on the game’s final drive, the second time this season the Aggies have ended a game with a turnover. The 11 sacks were a school record, surpassing the previous record of nine in 1999.



Quarterback – Jalen Fowler (10-of 26, 211 yards, 2 INTs) had to endure the awful weather and managed whatever he could. Forcing the ball early to Zack Leslie early did not help matters, as not only was he well defended, several times two defenders were in his area. The big play to Bhayshul Tuten, a 92-yard pass that set up the game’s first score, was on a play similar to Jamison Warren’s 74-yard touchdown at Hampton. All Fowler needed to do was to slip Tuten a short pass underneath the linebackers and in front of the safety and let Tuten do the rest. Fowler hit Tuten in stride for the second longest play in school history. Other than that completion, Fowler hit Taymon Cooke over the middle for a 30-yard gain and Jordan McDaniel down the sideline for 27. But he could not finish drives and took a couple of drive killing sacks as well. While Fowler is playing with his injury, it has slowed his effectiveness, particularly in the run-pass option with Jah-Maine Martin, Kashon Baker or Tuten. Called runs for Fowler have proven to be effective, but in Saturday’s conditions, it was better to play as conservative as possible. The first interception was a late throw to Leslie on a scramble and the second was a result of a tipped pass by a defensive lineman. Kingsley Ifedi ran a few run-pass option plays but until defenses see him throw passes, they are already one step closer to the line of scrimmage. Ifedi has hardly any room to run and does well to make a positive play.

Running Back – With Martin (flu-like symptoms) out, Tuten and Baker shared touches. Baker did well with his, with 59 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 21 carries. He also caught three passes for 31 yards. Tuten finished with 116 total yards on eight touches (five carries, three receptions). The pair figured heavily on the game’s biggest play when Baker hit a huge cut block to spring Tuten on the 92-yard pass play. It felt good to see Baker healthy and hopefully, he can finish his career with a bang these final two games. Martin is expected to return this Saturday at S.C. State.

Wide Receivers – This was a rough day for the receiving corps as it was difficult to get the receivers the ball with the swirling winds. Only four receivers (Ron Hunt, Zack Leslie, Jordan McDaniel, Taymon Cooke) caught a pass out of 15 targets with three drops. The Aggies also missed leading receiver Korey Banks. To compound the second half issues, two receivers had second half holding penalties which helped to kill any offensive momentum.

Offensive Line – The Aggies were very fortunate to get some offense when it did because the offensive line play was not very good, particularly in running the football. Take away Fowler’s sack totals and the Aggies rushed for 78 yards on 33 carries. Charleston Southern’s defensive front eventually wore the line down and in the middle of a dogfight in the fourth quarter, when the Aggies needed a first down to melt the clock, Fowler was sacked on third down twice. I am going to chalk the play to the difficulty of the conditions, but this is something the fan base has seen all year long.



Defense Line – The line of scrimmage was two yards behind the Buccaneer offensive line all day. That was how dominant the Aggie defensive line was. N.C. A&T had at least one sack in EVERY drive of the first half, and had six three-and-outs with one fourth and out. CSU finished with -3 net rushing yards on 38 attempts. The line rotation of Karfa Kaba (4 tackles (2 solos), 1.0 tackle for loss), Shomari Wallace (2 tackles, 1.0 TFL), Michael Branch (2 tackles, 0.5 TFL), Octavious Pringle 2 tackles (1.0 TFL), Devin Harrell and Henry Daniel (0.5 TFL) was simply dominant. However, the unit is still learning how to maintain its emotions on the field. Harrell, Kaba, and Wallace drew personal fouls/unsportsmanlike conduct penalties that extended Buccaneer drives, with two of those occurring on long yardage (15 yards or longer) situations.

Linebackers – As great as the Aggie linebackers have been in the Rod Broadway/Sam Washington era, this performance was one for the ages. Defensive Coordinator Courtney Coard turned the linebackers loose early and blitzed often, as Buccaneer QB Jack Chambers (21-of 44, 150 yards) could not get into a rhythm for three and a half quarters. The Big South Conference has recognized Jacob Roberts (BS Defensive Player of the Week, 11 tackles (six solos), 3 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss) and freshman Tyquan King (BS Freshman of the Week, game high 15 tackles (6 solos), 2 sacks, 1 QB pressure). Steven Davis, Jr. (3 tackles, 2 sacks) got some productive playing time as well. Most of Chambers’ passes were simply off target and were well short of intended receivers and he also could not escape outside the pocket. The Aggies were effective on third down (4-for-16) and held twice on fourth down (1-for-3), two factors that kept the Aggies ahead by two scores most of the game. Of course, I cannot fail to mention Joseph Stuckey’s game-saving interception on a horribly thrown pass from Chambers, a fitting end to an ugly game, but what history will see as a win.

Secondary – The secondary got a LOT of help from Mother Nature, the Bucs receivers and the Aggies front seven. Chambers had at least six dropped passes from his teammates and fired several passes into the turf due to pressure and throwing against the wind. Amir McNeill played pretty well covering the talented pair of Cayden Jordan (7 catches, 70 yards) and Geoffrey Wall (5 receptions, 13 yards), and Miles Simon battled top threat Garris Schwarting (6 catches, 54 yards on the opposite side. The defensive backs avoided getting beat deep, as the longest reception went for 14 yards. McNeill was diagnosed with a torn hamstring on Monday morning, and will miss the two remaining games. Some juggling will be done between the thin secondary, as Najee Reams has moved to corner and Simon remains on the other side. Mychale Salahuddin has filled in as the free safety for the last three weeks, and Jazir Staton has also manned the safety spot as well. Expect more playing time for freshman reserve cornerback Herbert Booker, who has a game-saving interception against North Alabama.


Special Teams

A large amount of credit should go to this unit, especially with a swirling wind that impacted the game mightily. The punt rush unit got the benefit of a snap over the punter’s deep in Bucs territory, and Jazir Staton was able to fall on the ball in the end zone for the game’s first score. Michael Rivers punted nine times for a 38-yard average and angled all his punts to the sideline, which kept Charleston Southern on its heels all game long. He flipped the field with two 50-plus yard punts against the wind. Both teams had average field position at their own 35 yard line and the kicking stats were pretty equal, so the touchdown was huge. Andrew Brown kicked all three of his extra points, but a horrible snap rushed his 22-yard field goal attempt, and while Rivers did a great job getting the ball down, Brown pushed the kick wide right. Weather projections in Orangeburg are good, so expect a better performance at S.C. State next week.

As well as the defense played, the Aggie offense still remains a shell of itself. All told, the Aggies got one big pass play, a special teams touchdown, and the 54-yard drive that ended in a touchdown. Two interceptions and a fumble forced the Aggie defense to step up more. Incredibly, the Bucs managed just three points off the Aggie turnovers. Also, penalties (11 for 104 yards) hurt both the Aggie offense and defensive efforts. Four defensive penalties led to Charleston Southern first downs, including three on the Bucs’ second score of the fourth quarter. This is week 10 of the football season and the same mistakes are being made, which is inexcusable. This game should not have been as close as the score indicated, but when players lack the attention to detail, miscues happen and allow opponents opportunities to get back in a contest in which they were clearly outplayed. A better opponent than CSU may have won this one. Fortunately the N.C. A&T were the better team this time, just barely. The quest for a winning season is now in play, and an old MEAC rival fighting for a championship awaits the Aggies at S.C. State next week.

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