It was a light weekend in the Big South as conference play started in earnest and the three teams that were picked to be in the upper half of the league in preseason are now all tied for the top spot at 1-0 in the conference play.
North Carolina A&T (2-3, 1-0) had the week off after beating Bryant 24-13 on Oct. 1 and will resume action this week in a non-conference contest against D-II and SIAC newcomer Edward Waters.
Meanwhile Campbell (3-2, 1-0) was pushed to the limit by Charleston Southern (0-5, 0-1) at home in Buies Creek before starving off a furious late charge in the closing seconds to secure a 34-28 win over the Buccaneers. The Camels were spearheaded by quarterback Hajii-Malik Williams who completed 16-of-25 pass attempts for 237 yards and two touchdowns, adding 43 yards rushing and another score on the ground, helping the Camels roll up more than 400 yards of total offense for the third straight game.
Still the Bucs were up to that challenge as their first year starting quarterback Isaiah Bess lit up the Campbell secondary connecting on 13-30 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns.
Gardner Webb (2-4, 1-0) showed little mercy on Robert Morris jumping out to a commanding 28-0 halftime lead and coasted to an easy 48-0 win on the road. The Runnin’ Bulldogs scored on their first 4 possessions of the game and never looked back as QB Bailey Fisher racked up 243 yards and three TDs going 20-24 on his passing attempts and ran for another. RMU had no answer as their anemic offense could only generate 12 first downs, 177 total offense yards and 76 yards on the ground. Robert Morris was sacked six times and coughed up three turnovers while averaging just 3.0 yards per play.
Bryant University’s (2-4, 0-1) offense rebounded from its sub-par performance against A&T by destroying D-II Southern Connecticut State 56-10. After throwing four interceptions two weeks ago, QB Zevi Eckhaus threw for 310 yards and four touchdowns. The Bulldogs racked up 623 yards of total offense and held the Owls to just 286 yards of offense and forced a pair of turnovers.
Robert Morris at Campbell* – 1pm, ESPN+
Edward Waters at North Carolina A&T – 1pm, ESPN+
Charleston Southern at Bryant* – 4pm, ESPN3
Most North Carolina A&T fans are not too familiar with this week’s upcoming opponent in the SIAC’s newest member Edward Waters. This D-II program who made their probationary move back to the SIAC in 2021 to now, its first season as a full member and are experiencing a lot of growing pains this season with a 1-4 record in conference play and 1-5 overall mark with its lone win coming against Morehouse. In their last outing EWU was blasted at home 56-7 by defending SIAC champion Albany State.
ECW has been competent on offense in 2022 scoring at 26.8 points a clip while averaging 165.8 yards rushing and 153.5 yards passing per game. However, the defense has been somewhat below average allowing just over 34 points and nearly 400 yards of total offense per outing.
The Tigers are coached by second year head coach Toriano Morgan, a Tennessee State Alum, spent two seasons as Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach at Virginia State University before being named the top man in the spring of 2021.
The man under center will be QB David Johnson (6-1, 210, Grad) who has completed 51-85 passes for 650 yards, for 4 TDs, and four interceptions this year. His main targets will be Ferante Cowart (5-10, 180, Sr.) who has 16 catches for 255 yards and a TD and Damaris August (6-0, 190, Sr.) with 12 catches for 150 yards.
The running game has been a bright spot with a trio of backs in Tyler King (6-0, 190. Sr.), De’Shaun Hugee (5-8, 190, Sr.), and Spencer Carter (5-9,180, Grad). The three have combined for 815 yards and 8 TDs on the season.
Up front the Tigers will lean heavily on Tennessee State transfer Jovens Javier (6-5, 315, Sr.), Berthornony Robert (6-4, 280, Sr.) and Damion Wilson (6-4, 350, Sr.).
The defensive leaders are Widmyer Garcon (5-11,215, LB, Sr.), Ahmanuel Thorpe (5-10, 210, LB, Jr.), Ahmaud Jordan (5-11, 200, DB), Joseph Riccardo (6-3, 285, DT, So.) and Drey Powell (6-1, 250, DE, Sr.)
After a week off at the midway point of the season, the Aggies will be coming into their third straight home game with a bit of momentum after a pair of back-to-back solid wins over South Carolina State and conference member Bryant. A&T appears to have shaken off a lot of the tentativeness and uncertainty surrounding some important starting spots at the skill positions and line rotations from its first three games.
Fifth year senior QB Jalen Fowler has had two very good performances in managing the offense behind a very stout offensive line and appears now to be comfortably settled in as the regular starter for the rest of the season. His job has been made a lot easier because of the sophomore rushing combo of Bhayshul Tuten and Wesley Graves and an offensive line that has been dominating the line of scrimmage as evidenced by a per rushing attempt average of nearly 5 yards per carry.
Defensively, A&T is beginning to look like its old self shutting down the run and creating turnovers. Over the last two games, the Aggies allowed just 8 and 38 yards against SCSU and Bryant respectively. The secondary has also picked off an impressive seven passes during that same time period and the Aggies were plus 5 on the turnover rate, a major improvement any way you care to cut it.
The task now is for A&T to ready itself for what lies ahead in the month of October. There are two very large conference tilts lying ahead in Robert Morris on the road and Campbell coming to Greensboro as A&T’s homecoming opponent. Those two games will be crucial to any championship aspirations so both the mental and physical preparation will have to begin this week against Edward Waters.
On paper this game should be a mis-match of immense proportions but if you know anything about college football, these David versus Goliath scenarios can often times turn into a pure nightmare as soon as Goliath begins to take his opponent for granted. If you are still in need of convincing, go ask Coach Eddie George of Tennessee State what he thinks about Lane College. Nothing is a given once you get this far into a season and the worst type of opponent to face at this juncture is one that has nothing to lose. A&T will have to deal with that obstacle not only this week but the next as well.
A&T is clearly the superior team coming into this game but it needs to prove its dominance on the field this Saturday. The Aggies need to come out of the locker room with some fire and focus with every intention of imposing its will from kickoff to the final gun. What you hope you don’t see out of A&T is a sloppy disjointed effort that even if the game comes out as a win the general feeling afterward is that of a loss because the team didn’t improve upon its performance from the week before against a lower-level opponent.
I don’t get that impression from this team which has been on a steady climb upward after dropping its first three games. What I see is a team gaining confidence and learning that no one is going to hand them anything and that everything they want to accomplish as a team has to be won inch by inch and play by play. That discipline and execution are keys that have to be mastered in order to win a championship. It’s all beginning to come together and the Aggies are now on the right road to do just that.
Now is not the time for any more detours.
N.C. A&T – 49
Edward Waters – 6