Redemption Begins At Home
by Craig R. Turner
Published: September 24, 2022

The Big South seems to have fallen into a very clear pattern of not doing well outside of the conference nearly going an “0-fer” for the second straight week in non-conference play. the one good thing is that this week will be the last full week of non-conference action and the match-ups this coming week are considerably less daunting than they have been.

Last week N.C. A&T played a sloppy first half falling behind Duke University 28-3 but rebounded nicely in the second half by finally finding some offensive identity and consistent QB play from true freshman Eli Brickhandler by scoring 17 second half points mostly against the Blue Devil starters in a 49-20 loss down in Durham.

Elon jumped out to a big 20-3 lead by halftime over Gardner Webb then turned the ball over twice on back to back possessions which the Bulldogs cashed in on to cut it to a 3-point game in the third. The Phoenix put together 10 points in the fourth and that was enough to secure a 30-24 win in their home opener.

Hampton won the “Battle of the Bay” downing Norfolk State 17-7 in what was a defensive standoff for most of the day with neither offense being able to find much success in sustaining drives. The Pirates weren’t dominating offensively as HU’s running backs could muster only 28 yards on 16 carries.

Campbell drew first blood on ECU last week for quick 7-0 lead. That did little to the Pirates except making them angry as they awakened shortly there after and thoroughly crushed the Camels 49-10 down in Greenville before 43,000 fans. ECU senior quarterback Holton Ahlers threw for three TDs and the Pirates posted 572 yards in total offense on the day.

#18 Eastern Kentucky had little trouble with Charleston Southern rolling to an easy 40-17 behind QB Parker McKinney’s sizzling 342-yard, 4 TD passing performance. CSU was within six points at 16-10 midway through the third quarter before 2 key turnovers mushroomed into two quick scoring strikes by Parker and the flood gates had opened up completely heading into the fourth.

Senior running back Allen Smith walked into the end zone in double overtime to lift the Brown Bears to a 44-38 come-from-behind win over the Bryant Bulldogs in the 2022 season-opener Saturday at at Brown Stadium. It marked the second time in three games that Bryant has lost in a double overtime game this year.

Big South TV Schedule – Saturday, Sept. 24

Furman at Charleston Southern – 12pm, ESPN+
ETSU at Robert Morris – 12pm, ESPN+
Bryant at Long Island – 1pm, NEC Front Row
Mercer at Gardner-Webb – 6pm, ESPN+
SC State at North Carolina A&T – 7pm, ESPN+

N.C. A&T vs South Carolina State Game Preview

Game Notes, Courtesy of N.C. A&T State University Athletics –

Game Notes, Courtesy of S.C. State University Athletics –

I listened to a lot of the national syndicated HBCU sports journalists talk about the A&T vs. S.C. State football game on tap for tomorrow night at Truist (Aggie) Stadium for nearly a week now and the general consensus among them is that although this is a big early season match-up between to traditionally strong football programs it wont make or break the season for either one of them.

It’s been said that since both of these teams are now in different conferences, the only real importance at this juncture is the long standing rivalry between the two of them since they are unlikely to meet again on the football field for quite some time so the focus will be all about the bragging rights for the fan bases.

The other thought is that since it’s a non-conference game with both teams yet to enter league play in their respective conferences the only thing they will need to be concerned about are those “in-house” games that lay ahead in October and November.

And while I like and respect most all of the major HBCU sports media organizations that are out there that follow HBCU football, I’m going to call B.S. on the notion that this game will be defined primarily by those two aforementioned points, at least from an A&T prospective.

This game is huge. It would be a downright lie to say that a loss to S.C. State at home would be inconsequential to the rest of what lies ahead for the Aggies. Let’s be very clear. The possibility of going into Big South play with a 0-4 mark and a mounting losing streak after the first third of your season already in the books would probably make it highly unlikely that the Aggies would fare any better in October against the likes of Bryant, Campbell, and yes even Robert Morris.

If A&T wants to right the ship and begin to play up to its potential, then they absolutely have to start their “redemption tour” this weekend with a real sense of urgency against the defending Black College National Champion Bulldogs. S.C. State is a very solid football team both offensively and most certainly defensively.

Are they as formidable as a Duke or a North Dakota State? Not even close but they are as every bit as talented as the unbeaten 25th FCS nationally ranked North Carolina Central. They have some of those very same attributes with a proven and seasoned quarterback under center, a big play and likely mid-round draft pick at wide receiver, a powerful running back, a big strong offensive line and a pair of superb pass rushing ends that as good as they come. A&T is not going to find a team in the Big South that will be more talented, at least personnel wise, than this bunch from Orangeburg.

We haven’t heard a lot chatter out of either camp this week about game plans and new wrinkles because these teams and more importantly these two coaches know pretty much what the other one is probably going to do. It will be four big things to look for as keys to victory in this game.

  1. The individual matchups. The first test will be A&T cornerback Karo Prunty vs SCSU’s wide out Shaq Davis on the outside. If Davis manages to get loose behind a suspect secondary, it will spell big trouble for an A&T defense that seemingly can’t get off the field on third downs this season. If A&T can shut off the big play and tackle in space properly it will force SCSU to seriously rethink some things on offense. A&T receiving corps is a deep group, but they have to do a much better job in catching the football this week. Dropping 3-4 sure scoring passes over the course of a game will no longer cut it nor should it.
  2. Line play. While SCSU has long had an advantage of keeping a strong defensive line, the young Aggie offensive front has been jelling very quickly over the last six quarters and has opened up some impressive running lanes against higher level competition. It will be crucial that A&T’s young defensive tackles hold their own against a veteran Bulldog front that utilizes a lot of sliding trap and seal blocking in their running game.
  3. Quarterback play. Corey Fields is a mobile QB, but he doesn’t try to make a living by running the football. He has shown tendencies from time to time to become somewhat inconsistent on his throws when serious pressure is applied but by the same token can be deadly when it isn’t. For A&T it’s less about passing ability as it will be about ball security. SCSU is notorious for being a ball hawking defense which means whichever quarterback gets the bulk of the snaps or is in the game at the time has got to protect the football first.
  4. The Coaches. Will Buddy be coaching the kicking game again? SCSU fans are very leery whenever a game is tight, and the Bulldogs line up for field goals or punts because of the past history of what has happened the last few times they have faced the Aggies. Will Sam Washington finally settle in behind a single quarterback and commit to the run, the bread and butter of any A&T offense and can he find the right A&T secondary combination of personnel and scheme to get off the field on third down on a consistent basis?

I know it’s a lot to digest but with all things being equal, it’s a fair assessment of the upcoming contest. The X-factor in all of this is which team will be in the right frame of mind emotionally and focused on the task at hand. We know SCSU wants to win this game badly after dropping six straight to A&T and who knows when they will get another shot at them. We haven’t seen A&T visibly pumped up for a game in a good while and being at home for the first time this season before what should be a really nice crowd on a cool September evening wrought with friends and family should be all the juice necessary to start out strong and fast.

I said should be. Nothing in 2022 has gone exactly as planned so I’ll reserve judgment until kickoff. SCSU has had a week off to prepare so I expect SCSU will go into their bag of tricks this week. They always do against A&T so don’t be surprised to see them dust off the halfback passes, the reverses, wildcat formations, and yes folks, even the fake kicks. On the home side, I think A&T is due to begin to become the team that everyone had thought they would be by all the preseason prognosticators.

It won’t be easy, and it will have its share of ugly moments but look for these teams to do battle as they always do in a low scoring affair with the hometown favorite sons making enough plays to get that elusive first win of the year.

Have something on your arms because it might get a little chilly by halftime. P.S. we would have gotten that Dub even had the “101” made the trip up. See you at the game.



N.C. A&T – 25
SCSU – 21

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