North Carolina A&T faces big test against Duke

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No. 14/15 North Carolina A&T (1-0, 0-0 MEAC) vs. Duke (1-0, 0-0)       
September 7, 2019
Time: 6 p.m.  
City/Venue:  Durham, N.C./Wallace Wade Stadium (40,000)
Series: First Meeting 
TV/Stream: ACC Network 
ESPN Triad Radio: Donal Ware (play-by-play); Al Swann (analyst)

Radio Stations: 
600 AM/101.5 FM Winston-Salem 
1320 AM/93.7 FM Greensboro
1230 AM/104.9 FM High Point 
920 AM/104.5 FM Burlington
1200 AM/95.1 FM Burlington

The Matchup: North Carolina A&T will try to do the unheard of on Saturday when it faces Power Five Duke out of the ACC. The Aggies will try to defeat a school from the Division I-FBS ranks for the fourth time in four years. Programs from the Division I-FCS level rarely defeat their fellow Division I mates who have 20-plus more scholarships than they do. But the Aggies have been one of the exceptions. 

In 2016, they defeated Kent State in quadruple overtime, 39-36. The following year, Mac McCain III’s pick-6 clinched a 35-31 win for the Aggies over the Charlotte 49ers. Last season, another McCain pick-6 and quarterback Kylil Carter’s relief appearance for star quarterback Lamar Raynard in the fourth quarter, sparked the Aggies to a 28-23 win over East Carolina. None of those teams come from what many college football analysts call a Power 5 conference which includes the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC. And while Duke is not considered elite in college football, the program has become a winning one under David Cutcliffe. Cutcliffe has led the Blue Devils to three straight bowl wins. 

Before he arrived in Durham, the Blue Devils averaged 1.4 wins per season between their two previous head coaches. Over the past seven seasons under Cutcliffe, the Devils are averaging 7.4 wins. In this year’s NFL Draft, Duke quarterback Daniel Jones was selected sixth overall by the New York Giants. 

N.C. A&T is not too shabby in the talent department either. Quarterback Kylil Carter showed great leadership and command over the Aggies offense completing 16 of 27 passes for 193 yards, no interceptions and two touchdowns. He recorded career highs in completions, attempts and passing yards. His favorite target was senior receiver Elijah Bell who caught nine passes for 93 yards and become the school’s all-time leader in touchdown receptions with 26.

Bell inched closer to setting more career marks at A&T. Bell, who has six 100-yard receiving games in his career, needs only 84 more receiving yards to become the Aggies all-time leading receiver in yards passing Herbert Harbison. Bell is only 21 receiving yards shy of passing Wallace Miles for second all-time. He needs 18 more catches to pass Harbison and Wallace Miles in career receptions. 

o    N.C. A&T has played two other ACC schools out of the state of North Carolina in its history. The Aggies lost to Wake Forest 42-3 in 2004 and the UNC Tar Heels defeated the Aggies 53-14 in 2015. The Aggies have never played an ACC school outside of North Carolina and they have yet to play N.C. State. 

o    N.C. A&T had two players win weekly honors this past week. Jermaine McDaniel was named the MEAC’s defensive player of the week after making eight tackles and three sacks in the Aggies win over Elon. Noel Ruiz captured special teams player of the week from the conference after his 52-yard field goal as time expired gave the Aggies their fourth straight win over Elon. Ruiz’s kick tied a school record and was the program’s first game-winning kick in 15 years. 

o    A&T’s win over Elon marked their third straight win over a ranked FCS opponent thanks to wins over Jacksonville State in 2018 and Grambling State in 2017. The Aggies are 5-5 against ranked FCS opponents since 2013. 

o    N.C. A&T’s defense looked just as dominant as it has over the past nine years. The Aggies held Elon to 221 yards of offense to make the 28th time in the past 70 games the Aggies have held an opponent to under 250 yards of offense. Elon’s 19 yards rushing marked 25th time in since 2011 the Aggies have held an opponent to under 50 yards rushing. 

They are a great program, not just a great team. They are champions. They do what champions do. There are three ingredients to what championship football teams do and they have a conference championship trophy. They were MEAC champions for a reason. First of all, they have talent. Second, they are extremely well-coached. The third thing is that they play and compete at an extremely high level in all three phases. In this era, to keep people to under 30 points is hard. I think the most points they have up a year ago was 23 to East Carolina and they won that game. That gives you a lot to be concerned about.”

Duke Head Coach, David Cutcliffe

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