College football is about to head into that final November stretch run where the top contenders in every conference begin to play each other and clearly define the true contenders in the championship races.
Last week N.C. A&T and Gardner Webb continued in the winner’s circle with both picking up relatively easy conference wins while the third unbeaten went on the road and dropped a tough game against the 6th ranked team in the FCS.
North Carolina A&T made it four in a row with a convincing 38-14 road win over Robert Morris. The Aggies, traditionally a run first team, took to the airways early and often behind senior QB Jalen Fowler.
He connected on 19-30 passes for 297 yards and 4 touchdowns including two to senior wide receiver Zach Leslie, who returned to action after a missing four games with an injury. RB Bhayshul Tuten rushed for 139 yards for his sixth straight 100-yard performance breaking Tarik Cohen’s school mark for most consecutive100-yard rushing games.
It was homecoming night down in Charleston, SC for the Charleston Southern Buccaneers but Gardner Webb was very accommodating as the Bulldogs pulled away in the second half for a 28-14 win.
CSU got on the board first on an 83-yard TD run by JD Moore but GWU added a touchdown and 2 field goals to take a 13-7 lead into the half. Webb then struck twice in the third quarter to break the game open primarily off the efforts of senior QB Bailey Fisher who threw for 408 yards and a TD on the evening.
Campbell stepped outside the conference and made the trip down to Jackson, MS. As the homecoming guests of Deion Sanders and his 6th ranked Jackson State Tigers before a homecoming crowd of more than 51,000 fans.
The Tigers did not disappoint as the JSU defense kept Campbell’s star quarterback Hajii Williams in check most of the day and limited the explosive Camels to just 246 yards of total offense enroute to a 22-14 victory.
Running back Sy’Veon Wilkerson rushed 24 times for 116 yards and one touchdown as JSU rushed for 178 yards in the game. Heisman Trophy and Walter Payton Award candidate QB Shedeur Sanders passed for 233 yards and one touchdown in the win.
Big South TV Schedule – Week 9 – Saturday, Oct. 29
Campbell at North Carolina A&T* – 1pm, ESPN3
Charleston Southern at Kennesaw State – 1pm, ESPN+
Bryant at Gardner-Webb* – 1:30pm, ESPN+
*- denotes conference games
Aggies Try To Focus On Football (greensboro.com)
Big South unbeatens match up Saturday – Campbell University (gocamels.com)
Saturday will mark the long-awaited collision of two of the preseason favorites in the Big South as Campbell will venture up to Greensboro for a first time ever meeting with North Carolina A&T. Granted this is GHOE and big crowds in attendance have always been the standard at A&T but rarely does the game completely sellout some two weeks in advance and scalpers are demanding a pretty price for a ticket to Saturday’s match-up.
A&T has battled its way back from an 0-3 start in early September to four straight impressive wins showing steady improvement each week in each phase of the game. Still, many are anxious to see if the Aggies are ready to take the next step with a victory over a very good Campbell team that many observers suggest are the odds-on favorite to win the Big South.
Tempo will be key in this game as the Camels prefer to play as fast as possible on both ends. Their no-huddle offense run by explosive QB Hajii Williams, often relies on spreading out defenses and then hitting big plays out of the RPO run game and occasionally going deep over the top or with the tight end slipping undetected underneath the zone.
Not only will A&T have to be spot on in with their gap control but make sure that they maintain containment on the edges when Williams decides to move out of the pocket. The secondary will need to stay on assignment and not take the bait of coming up to help chase him. Campbell has hit some of its biggest and longest pass plays of the year when the protection breaks down.
On the flipside, Campbell will be on a mission to slow down Bhayshul Tuten and the A&T running game. Often changing from an even to odd front, expect the Camels to try to get as much penetration as possible in order to disrupt things.
There will be some cat and mouse games played early on so don’t be surprised if the Aggies do many of same things, they did with QB Jalen Fowler against Robert Morris; utilizing short to intermediate play action passes to counter their stacking the box which will open some running lanes.
Both of these offenses have big offensive lines that like to pound on people and both can run the football. This game will probably be determined by the success and failures of the passing game for both teams especially when it comes to turnovers and staying out of third and long situations. Toss in a little trickeration or a possible big play off special teams and that translates into being a close hardnosed old style defensive contest whose outcome will turn on just 4 or 5 key plays.
Neither team will go quietly on Saturday but I have to wonder about the state of mind of these two teams. One coming in on a hot 4-game winning streak and the other off a tough and physical game with a top ten team on the road which had the national limelight all over it.
The winner of this game will have the inside track to the Big South title and complete control of its own destiny. It stands to reason that the Aggies will come ready to play as will the Camels. Still that home field advantage at a sold out GHOE just might be the capper and it’s a lot to ask for any team at this level to deal with that kind of emotional rollercoaster on back-to-back weeks.
See you on Saturday and everyone, please stay safe and more importantly be responsible.
N.C. A&T – 27
Campbell – 21