As we wind down the regular season in college football, the Big South has been narrowed down to a winner take all match-up that is still a week away. Campbell (4-5, 2-2) was eliminated from contention this past week as they were upset on its northern road trip up to Rhode Island as Bryant (3-6, 1-3) jumped out to huge first half lead and weathered a frenzied fourth quarter comeback to turn back the Camels 43-37 ending their championship hopes.
Bryant quarterback Zevi Eckhaus threw for 235 yards and four touchdowns in leading the Bulldogs in the victory giving the program’s first-ever Big South win. He was 22-of-33 passing ( 66.7 percent) with no interceptions, and connected on TD passes of 9, 15, 13 and 6 yards for his second 4-touchdown game of the season.
Charleston Southern (2-2, 2-7) had a big first half offensively against Robert Morris (0-4, 0-9) and it proved to be enough as the Buccaneers claimed their second win of the year with a 34-21victory on senior day.
Charleston Southern running back JD Moore opened the scoring for the Buccaneers early on, finding pay dirt from three yards out on just the second play of the drive. Moore’s score would not only be the first score but also gave CSU a lead they would not surrender the rest of the way.
Moore then found the end zone again in the third quarter after Robert Morris cut the game to just one score at 20-14 to put things out of reach. CSU rushed for a season high 207 yards on the ground while reserve quarterback Deymon Fleming Jr. was called on to be the signal caller down the stretch, and the red shirt sophomore made the most of it. Fleming Jr. finished 16-31 through the air for 242 yards and two scores.
North Carolina A&T (6-3, 3-0) assured itself of a championship match-up against Gardner Webb on November 19th. The Aggies remained unbeaten in the Big South and extended its winning streak to 6 in a row with a demonstrative 49-24 non-conference win over Norfolk State in Greensboro last week.
A&T sophomore running back Bhayshul Tuten racked up his eighth straight 100-yard game as he ran for 117 yards and three touchdowns and a fourth on a 6-yard TD reception. Quarterback Jalen Fowler continued to impress as he completed 22-33 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns. On the season, Fowler is hitting on 66.7 percent of his passes (110-169, 1392 yds) with 13 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. The A&T defense, missing some key starters because of a flu outbreak, managed to pick off 4 passes, two by red shirt sophomore cornerback Aaron Harris.
Bryant at Holy Cross – 12pm, ESPN+
Charleston Southern at North Carolina A&T* – 12pm, ESPN+
Gardner-Webb at Campbell* – 1pm, ESPN3
N.C. A&T vs. Charleston Southern Preview
Charleston Southern Game Notes, courtesy of Post Courier.
N.C. A&T Game Notes, courtesy of Greensboro News and Record
A&T looks to move closer to Big South football title (greensboro.com)
Well, the stage has been set for North Carolina A&T to reclaim its spot as one of the nation’s better FCS programs as it moves one step closer toward a showdown with Gardner Webb next week and a chance to capture the Big South Championship.
Bryant cleared the path for a true championship game for both clubs as they knocked out Campbell in what could only be described as a stunner leaving both A&T and GWU two games ahead in the win column with just two games to play. GWU will travel to Campbell this week and A&T will entertain Charleston Southern but the outcomes won’t matter, at least not mathematically, as the winner of the upcoming November 19th meeting will win the conference outright and claim the BSC automatic qualifier to the FCS playoffs.
Still with the knowledge that next week is for all the marbles, it doesn’t mean the Aggies can afford to look past a somewhat inconsistent yet very dangerous CSU squad that will come into Greensboro with a 2-7 record.
Charleston Southern is a team that is deceptively good in that they play with a ton of effort. They’ve only truly been blown out in a couple of games this season , one to N.C. State 55-3 and the other to Eastern Kentucky 40-17.
The Bucs have an offense can put up points when it has to although they are not quite the pass happy team that A&T has faced in the past two years. Coach Autry Denson has relied on getting his ground attack to take on a more prominent role as the season played out due to the fact his two top quarterbacks went down to injury near the midway point in the season.
They have used both Tony Bartalo (6-2, 214, R-So.) and red shirt freshman Deymon Fleming Jr. (6-2, 212). Expect to see both players on Saturday but Fleming should see the most time behind center after his solid performance last week in a win over Robert Morris. CSU is averaging just over 21 points per game and 328 yards in total offense.
The biggest problem that has plagued CSU has been their up and down defense that has been something less than stellar, especially against the pass. The Bucs are giving up an average of 295 yards per game through the air with a total of 23 TDs on the year. The rush defense has been adequate allowing 162 yards per outing but the defense as a whole has been super generous all year long by allowing 31.4 points per contest.
There’s adequate size along both lines and there is good team speed but the distraction this year has been a mounting stack of injuries to key personnel and finding enough reliable depth to step into vacated spots without a significant drop-off, hence the inconsistency in their play.
This what is considered to be the ultimate trap game scenario for the Aggies and one that is not unfamiliar to them. First place already nailed down tightly, riding high on a long winning streak, playing against a team that’s near the bottom of your league, and the “big one” still a week away. It would be so easy to lose focus and start thing about Gardner Webb.
The other scenario is that A&T is a team that is coming into this game on a roll, hungry for win number seven, wanting to do something special by going unbeaten in the conference, and clearly wanting to send a message down to Boiling Springs that this year will not be a repeat of last year.
A&T will need to be on their game but especially defensively because CSU scores off a lot of big plays. And despite recent trends in their running the ball more CSU is still 70 percent of time still committed to the “Air Raid” offense with a tad of trick plays thrown into the mix. They are not a grind it out type offense and no one on the A&T side should expect them to change at this late date.
Offensively, A&T needs to keep doing what they’ve been doing. The Aggies have been superbly balanced offensively for the last month and half and the scoreboard has been reflecting that fact – over 40 points per game at home and nearly 31 points a game overall.
Probably the best defense against CSU’s quick strike ability is a stiff ground game, limiting the number of possessions, and capitalizing off errors against a team that has shown a penchant to turn it over on occasion.
I’m firm believer that the numbers you see late into November actually means a whole lot more and gives a much clearer picture than it does say in the first few weeks of September when everyone is feeling their way like a toddler learning to walk.
There is an timeless football adage that says “You are what your record says you are.”. I think those numbers should play themselves out this weekend. We’ll soon see if there’s any truth to that old axiom.
N.C. A&T – 45
Charleston Southern – 14