EAST GREENSBORO –The 2019 North Carolina A&T Blue & Gold Spring Football Game had it its notability submerged in who was present when and where.
The Gold or the Aggies offense, defeated the Aggies defense, the Blue team, 30-29 on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Ifedi Kingsley to Ron Hunt on the final play of the scrimmage.
Walking on the sideline at BB&T Stadium Saturday afternoon was like being inside the North Carolina history book of football with greats such as Darryl Klugh, Craig Thompson and Tarik Cohen palling around.
On the field was marked by who was not on it for the two-time defending HBCU national champion Aggies.
Names fans have become familiar with did not play. All-American cornerback Mac McCain III was still recovering from a season-ending injury he sustained in October. Veteran quarterback Kylil Carter did not dress either as he recovers from an injury.
Third-team All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference running back and projected starter Jah-maine Martin also did not play. N.C. A&T’s 2018 leading tackler and linebacker Antoine Wilder was also absent on the field.
Yet, second-year head coach Sam Washington still got to see what he wanted, good and bad, to wrap up the Aggies spring practice session.
“I thought our effort and focus was really good,” said Washington who led the Aggies to a 10-2 record in his first year at the helm. “We did have a few false starts but overall I think we only had five penalties, so I was pleased with that.
When you see guys flying around, even if they make a mistake while doing it, it says they are confident because they know what they’re doing. That means they’ve been well-coached, so I have to give my staff credit for that.”
N.C. A&T’s two returning starters on the offensive line did play in All-MEAC tackle Marcus Pettiford and Dontae Keys. Carter’s competition at the quarterback position did play in Jalen Fowler and Kingsley.
Fowler and Kingsley had the wide receiver weapons on the field in Elijah Bell, one of the best receivers in school history, and Zach Leslie, last season’s leading receiver. Of course, Hunt’s game-winner was a major highlight on Saturday. The Aggies also gave Savannah State transfer JaMichael Baldwin a good look at receiver.
At running back, Gold gave the Blue a good portion of Kashon Baker, TJ Boyce and Unique Johnson.
Kingsley led the way by going 13-for-19 for 168 yards and two touchdowns. His other touchdown pass went to Jordan McDaniel on a five-yard TD pass. McDaniel also had a 44-yard reception in the game. Fowler was 5-for-18 for 92 yards.
“I thought our decision-making was better today from the quarterback position,” said Washington. “The one area we felt like that was the one area Jalen needed some improvement and I thought he made some good choices today. He knew where the ball was going and when it needed to be there.
Ifedi is very athletic. He is going to play a lot of football with his feet. He can throw it and he can run it, so we’re looking forward to seeing how much he develops.”
Johnson scored Gold’s other touchdown on the day, an 11-yard run. He finished with 52 yards on nine carries.
Another positive for the Aggies was the kicking game. Noel Ruiz, who is heading into his third season as the Aggies placekicker, hit all three of his field goal attempts on Saturday from distances of 42, 42 and 37 yards. He also connected on all seven of his extra point attempts.
Defensively, the Aggies were led by linebacker Chris Williams, rover Will Jones and defensive tackle Justin Nwachukwu. Nwachukwu had 2 ½ sacks, while Williams and Jones had five tackles apiece. Nose tackle Justin Cates added two sacks and Jaedon Williams had a 55-yard interception return for a touchdown.
The defense’s 29 points were made up of six three-and-outs for 3-points apiece, two stops for two points apiece, the pick-6 and a Ruiz extra point.
“I wanted to see today if we are doing the fundamentals well. If we’re doing the little things that are going to make us better. It is important for us to get some of our guys back so we can really assess where we are before the season starts.”
N.C. A&T opens the season Saturday, Aug. 31 at BB&T Stadium against Elon at 6 p.m.