Tuten Powers Aggies To First Win Of Season
By Tyler Ball, Guest Analyst
Published: September 26, 2022

When I worked as a cook in the kitchen of the legendary Bill’s Pizza Pub in Greensboro, my uncle, the manager, taught me one adage that has stuck with me to this day: “It ain’t gotta be pretty, but it has got to be right.” This message could be a perfect description of N.C. A&T’s 41-27 victory over former MEAC rival S.C. State. The game featured elements of good (248 rushing yards for the hosts) bad (316 passing yards and 4TDs for SCSU quarterback Corey Fields) and the ugly (220 penalty yards combined and injuries to two of four Aggie signal callers).



Wow. Well, the quarterback locker room got really interesting after gameplay last night. Zach Yeager got the start and promptly went three-and-out on the first series, then was hit by SCSU linebacker Duane Nichols that was flagged for targeting and did not return. Eli Brickhandler came in and got a good drive going but took a hit and hobbled off the field. After the game, he used crutches to walk off the field to an ovation from the crowd. He is still eligible for a redshirt if needed. Jalen Fowler took the field and settled things down. He completed 8 of 14 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns. Most importantly, he faced little duress and threw with confidence all night. His best throw was a beautiful back shoulder play to Ger-Cari Caldwell, who had a great night. Fowler ran the read option well (7 rushes for 38 yards) and to top it all off he committed ZERO turnovers. This was a dream scenario; the Aggies got the moderate quarterback production it needed and that opened the running game. An interesting decision came when it was time to finish the game. The coaching staff decided to insert Austin Hooker for the final, run-out-the-clock series and on a critical third down, he made a determined throw to Sterling Berkhalter, who turned upfield for the first down to ice the game. Hooker looked to be the fastest runner of the three quarterbacks and proved he could take a hit on that throw (the play was flagged for roughing the passer). With two quarterbacks nursing injuries, it essentially means Fowler will likely start and Hooker will likely elevate to the number two spot. Hopefully Fowler can continue his hot play as the Aggies will need it once teams decide to use extra personnel to stop the run.

Running Backs

– Thunder and lightning have struck in the Aggie backfield. Bringing the thunder would be Wesley Graves (16 rushes for 72 yards and 1 TD), who took on Bulldog defenders all night, usually falling forward for extra yards. It was great to see tacklers bounce off of him as he ran the ball. Of course lighting would be Bhayshul Tuten (12-140-2 TD, 2 catches, 32 yards, 1TD) who just does it all. Even coach Sam Washington has said he would like to get Tuten the ball as much as possible. Tuten set a new career high with 172 all-purpose yards and that was with no kick returns. The potential with this backfield only increases with Charlie Dixon (5-24). The 284 yards rushing on 45 attempts (6.3 per carry) is truly incredible, considering that S.C. State made no secret that its intent was to stop the run. Tuten’s 140 yards ended a long streak of Aggie running backs not reaching the century mark against S.C. State.

Wide Receivers

– It’s not about the opportunities you get, it’s about the plays you make with the opportunities. Caldwell made up for last week’s drop with three beautiful catches. The back shoulder completion went for 34 yards. On the next series Caldwell found a seam and took a Fowler pass in stride for 31 yards. Then he concluded the series with an inside move in the slot and grabbed an on-time delivery for a nine-yard TD catch. Berkhalter (3-31) and Jamison Warren (1-12) were the other wide receivers to make receptions. The key stat: six of the eight receptions were for first downs. Several of them flipped field position and allowed the Aggies to control the clock (34 minutes of possession).

Offensive Line

– The Aggie offensive line continues to be the bright spot of the season so far. In addition to allowing no sacks for the second time this season, the Aggie offense lost just 15 yards in 45 rushing attempts. It seemed that Tuten and Graves could pick a hole to run through when they touched the ball. Right, left, up the middle, everything was open. Many times the backs were untouched until they were into the secondary. What’s more impressive is that the offense overcame several penalties from the line to roll to 489 yards of total offense and the most points scored since the Aggies put up 41 at home against Robert Morris on October 2nd last season. We also like to see depth in the offensive line and sophomore Korion Sharpe has filled in very well while Lawrence Lagrone continues to manage a nagging injury. Sharpe turned in the key play in the Tuten touchdown reception, which was a shovel pass. Sharpe turned his man toward the inside, which allowed Tuten to get a full head of steam and eventually flip into the end zone to give the Aggies the lead for good at 14-13.

Defensive Line

– It’s something about S.C. State that turns Devin Harrell into beast status. Harrell backed up last year’s game winning interception return with a pair of sacks. Credit the makeshift unit of Harrell, Shomari Wallace, Janorris Robertson, and Henry Daniel for teaming up to completely shut down the Bulldog running game. SCSU called 14 running plays and ended with 29 yards rushing on those plays, adding another impressive mark to the Sam Washington defensive era (71 opponents under 100 yards rushing since 2011). Also, the line managed to put quarterback Corey Fields under duress for most of the night.


– Tyquan King (10 tackles, INT), Joseph Stuckey (5 tackles, 3 for loss, PBr) and Jacob Roberts (5 tackles, PBr) were everywhere and made things difficult for Fields. Bulldog back Jacory Benson had no lanes to run through at all. Fast rising freshman Caleb Jones (2 tackles) played well in his second straight week. Look for this unit to get more work as the conference season gets underway. Next week’s opponent, Bryant University, averages 40 pass attempts and 30 rushes per game. It would be great if the Aggies ground attack keeps the defense fresh and off the field with time consuming drives.
Secondary – The battle between SCSU WR Shaq Davis and Aggie corner Karon Prunty turned out to be as good as advertised with Davis getting the better of the matchup somewhat. Prunty held his own on several targets but was helped with some inaccurate targets by Fields. Besides Davis, Fields completed 20 passes to 12 receivers, forcing the Aggies to cover the entire field. Janaz Sumpter (4 tackles) and Prunty (6 tackles) had busy nights. Avarion Cole made the biggest play of the night by jumping an inside route and intercepting Fields, the second straight week he had made a pick. We are going to depend on this group to endure a trial by fire and at times they were able to make plays and get off the field. Hopefully we will see their confidence grow each week. Things can get better when Mychale Salahuddin and Amir McNeil return.

Special Teams

It was an up-and-down night for the Aggie specialty units, particularly for return man Amonte Jones. Jones tried to pick up a bouncing ball and muffed it, leading to an early Bulldog touchdown. Jones nearly redeemed himself when he sprinted through a hole on a kickoff for an 89-yard touchdown that was called back for an illegal block in the back. He did contribute later by taking advantage of poorly covered punt for a career long 27-yard return, and also drew a late hit for a 15-yard penalty, which set up a 38-yard Tuten touchdown run. Jones and Taymon Cooke are exciting to watch with the ball and you can see they accelerate through holes and make defenders reach for air as they fly by. Do not be surprised to see these two on the offensive side of the ball more. Cooke has already been used on the jet sweep. Andrew Brown missed a career long 53-yard attempt wide right but had plenty of distance, which prompted the Aggies to try long field goals instead of maybe going for 4th and short situations. Brown made kicks from 49 and 48 yards to add to his totals. Brown has made 7-of-8 field goal attempts this and has given his team a huge boost, knowing they can get points from the opponent 30-yard line or less. He has also not missed an extra point. Caleb Brickhouse averaged a season-low 39 yards on five punts, but that was largely due to short fields and conservative play calling. Jacob Roberts got his hand on another punt, the fifth block of his career.

The conference preseason is finally over, and while the Aggies are a bit nicked up, the confidence of last night’s performance should provide an energy boost to the team and its fans. Star defensive end Jermaine McDaniel and fellow starter Robert Porcher Jr. are expected back this week. More news about Eli Brickhandler and Amir McNeil should come via the Monday press conference.
Things are not perfect, however, and the game was marred by numerous penalties on both sides. A&T was flagged 13 times for 111 yards and it seemed like it was a lot more. Over half the yardage assessed were penalties of the unsportsmanlike conduct variety and Jamison Warren was ejected from the contest. I do not need to rehash the discussion in the forum about the penalties, especially when only four were committed last week. The numbers speak for themselves. A 76.50 average in four games nearly matches last season’s total and before the game, A&T ranked 83rd in the nation in both the total number of penalties (19) and a 65 yards per game average. Here is an interesting stat: Next week’s opponent, Bryant University came into last week’s game leading the nation with 37 accepted penalties, almost double of the Aggies. They were second to last in penalty yardage with a 108 yard per game average. Focus will be key.

Bryant (1-3) is an interesting opponent to begin the conference season with. The Bulldogs have been able to put some points on the board and they managed to defeat Long Island University on a game ending field goal for their first win on Saturday. Look for them to use multiple formations to get the Aggies off balance and run the football with a balanced attack. Besides remaining disciplined, A&T will have to key in on their pass rush and continue to dominate both lines of scrimmage. To start 1-3 is not the best scenario but all the goals of the season remain ahead of Blue Death.

Winning time starts now.

Related Content