Courtesy of North Carolina A&T Athletics
Norfolk St. 1-8 , 1-2
N.C. A&T 6-3 , 3-0
EAST GREENSBORO – A certain resiliency is developing within the North Carolina A&T Aggies football program. They overcame an 0-3 start. They overcame numerous injuries to their quarterbacks unit. They overcome a huge halftime homecoming deficit to win and remain in the hunt for the Big South Conference title.
This week, they overcame 14 players diagnosed with the flu, with four missing Saturday’s game against Norfolk State at Truist Stadium.
Yet, the Aggies intercepted four passes. Sophomore Bhayshul Tuten had another 100-yard rushing performance, graduate receiver Zach Leslie had another 100-yard receiving game and junior linebacker Jacob Roberts had another pick-6 as the Aggies downed fellow HBCU Norfolk State 49-24.
The win marked the Aggies (6-3) sixth straight as they improved to 5-0 at home. A&T also improved to 3-1 against HBCUs this season.
“We had guys get the flu and miss a whole week of practice,” said A&T head coach Sam Washinton. “I love saying no excuses, no regrets, but I’m here today with excuses because I’m a true believer in you play like you practice. This week, we had a lot of guys who didn’t practice. But, overall, I thought we made the plays we had to make in crucial moments, and that’s why we came out victorious.”
Washington had players such as Robert Porcher IV, rover A.J. Dupree, linebacker Herbert Booker and cornerback Aaron Harris fill in nicely for the players who were ill. Harris had two interceptions, and Dupree led the Aggies with two tackles for loss.
A&T needed those next-man-up performances because the Spartans (1-8) played their former Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) with a lot of HBCU pride on Saturday. After Roberts returned an Otto Khuns interception 22 yards for a touchdown, the Aggies looked in complete control with a 21-0 second-quarter lead.
But the Spartans switched quarterbacks from Khuns to Jaylen Adams, and it proved effective. Adams led the Spartans on a 17-play, 75-yard drive that ended with him scoring on a two-yard run. On the Spartans ensuing drive, Khuns came off the bench for one play and tossed a 41-yard TD pass to Collis Pride to get the Spartans to within a touchdown at 21-14.
However, A&T graduate quarterback Jalen Fowler got his team going again by leading a two-minute offense down the field. He completed a 26-yard pass to Taymon Cooke and a 31-yard pass to Leslie, setting up a 6-yard TD toss to Tuten for a touchdown as the Aggies went into the locker room at the half holding a 28-14 lead.
“I’m telling you; he has a good football team,” said Washington about Norfolk head coach Dawson Odums, a former defensive starter at N.C. Central who Washington coached when he served as NCCU’s defensive coordinator in the mid-90s. “They are coming. I told (Odums) I would hate to play against you in a couple of years. If they continue on the right path, they will be a tough team to beat in a couple of years.”
Odums’ Spartans even opened the second half with a seven-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a Khuns 1-yard TD run to answer the Aggies late second-quarter touchdown. After a 6-yard touchdown run from A&T freshman running back Wesley Graves, the Spartans got a 46-yard field goal from Grandin Willcox to make it a 35-24 game with 2:29 remaining in the third quarter.
But the Aggies defense would take over in the fourth quarter. A Karon Prunty interception that he caught after it was batted in the air four times halted a promising Norfolk drive. Another Norfolk drive ended when Harris jumped the route on an Adams pass and returned the INT 37 yards to set up a 5-yard Tuten touchdown that gave the Aggies a 49-24 lead.
“I am very fond of cornerbacks,” said Washington, who played five NFL seasons as a cornerback. “To see (Harris) sit down and drive on that ball the way he did on that play was very exciting and pleasing to watch.”
Norfolk marked the Aggies final regular-season non-conference game of 2022. The Aggies will now try to make a march toward an NCAA Division I-FCS playoff berth with two Big South Conference games remaining. The Aggies are tied atop the conference with the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs at 3-0. They will host Charleston Southern next week at Truist in their regular-season home finale. A&T will close out the regular season at GWU.
Whatever pitfalls confront the Aggies over those final two weeks, one thing is for sure; they have shown the capacity to recover and triumph.
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|03:52 – A&T – Tuten,Bhayshul 10 yd run (Brown,Andrew kick), 5 plays, 60 yards, TOP 02:33||0||7|
|14:29 – A&T – Tuten,Bhayshul 33 yd run (Brown,Andrew kick), 9 plays, 60 yards, TOP 03:09||0||14|
|12:36 – A&T – Roberts,Jacob 22 yd interception (Brown,Andrew kick)||0||21|
|04:22 – NSU – Adams,Jaylan 2 yd run (Willcox,Grandin kick), 17 plays, 75 yards, TOP 08:14||7||21|
|01:14 – NSU – Pride,Collis 41 yd pass from Kuhns,Otto (Willcox,Grandin kick) 5 plays, 63 yards, TOP 01:09||14||21|
|00:02 – A&T – Tuten,Bhayshul 6 yd pass from Fowler,Jalen (Brown,Andrew kick) 6 plays, 68 yards, TOP 01:07||14||28|
|10:27 – NSU – Kuhns,Otto 1 yd run (Willcox,Grandin kick), 7 plays, 75 yards, TOP 04:33||21||28|
|07:34 – A&T – Graves,Wesley 6 yd run (Brown,Andrew kick), 6 plays, 55 yards, TOP 02:45||21||35|
|02:29 – NSU – Willcox,Grandin 46 yd field goal 9 plays, 46 yards, TOP 05:05||24||35|
|02:42 – A&T – Kimbrough,Romello 2 yd pass from Fowler,Jalen (Brown,Andrew kick) 5 plays, 27 yards, TOP 02:39||24||42|
|00:58 – A&T – Tuten,Bhayshul 5 yd run (Brown,Andrew kick), 3 plays, 17 yards, TOP 01:26||24||49|