Although it was pretty at times, North Carolina A&T managed to hang on to defeat Jacksonville State, 20-17 in the Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff.
Aggies’ quarterback Lamar Raynard did not look like himself and struggled, completing only 12 of his 34 passes for 111 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
A&T got the scoring going when a 9 play, 65 yard drive ended in a 24-yard touchdown pass from Raynard to Zachary Leslie. The Noel Ruiz extra point put the Aggies up 7-0.
After several fruitless drives from both teams spilled over into the second quarter,Jacksonville State would trim the Aggie lead to four, 7-3, capping a 10 play, 57 yard drive with a 23 yard Cade Stinnett field goal.
This would be score heading into halftime.
JSU dodged two bullets early in the third period, when CJ Savage’s difficulty in handling of two punts gave the ball to A&T twice with good field position. Fortunately for the Gamecocks, their defense stymied both drives and A&T was quickly forced to punt both times.
Business would pick up significantly later in the quarter. After Jax State’s Christian Wofford intercepted a Raynard pass, the Gamecocks took over at their own 25-yard line. Three plays and 75 yards later, JSU would take their first lead of the game when Zerrick Cooper connected with Daniel Byrd on a 49 touchdown pass. Cade Stinnett connected on the extra point to make the score 10-7.
Jacksonville State did not have much time to enjoy the lead. On the ensuing kickoff, Malik Wilson returned it 98-yards to put the Aggies back out in front; Noel Ruiz converted the PAT to make the score 14-10.
On the very next drive Jacksonville State responded with another long Zerrick Cooper touchdown, this one 40 yards to Josh Pearson. The Stinnett PAT put the Gamecocks back in front 17-14. A penalty on an attempted onside kick would start the next A&T drive on the JSU 31 yard line. Five plays later Raynard found Elijah Bell on a four yard touchdown pass. Noel Ruiz bounced the PAT attempt off the left upright, leaving the score 20-17.
The Gamecocks had opportunities to either tie or take the lead in the fourth, but cost themselves with blocked and missed field goals and a pair of fumbles, the later being a sack and a strip of Zerrick Cooper by Darryl Johnson Jr. deep in A&T territory as the Gamecocks were setting up the potential game winning or tying score. A&T’s Antoine Wilder recovered the fumble with 17 seconds to go in the contest, sealing the Gamecocks’ fate.
For Jacksonville State, despite outgaining A&T 403 to 148 total yards , miscues and missed opportunities would ultimately prove their undoing. The Gamecocks had four turnovers, including three fumbles; they also failed to convert two of their three field goal attempts and committed 14 penalties for a whopping 149 yards.
North Carolina returns to action next week when they head to Greenville, South Carolina to take on the East Carolina Pirates.
The Gamecocks are off next Saturday. They begin a five game home-stand on September 8 when they host Mississippi Valley State.