EAST GREENSBORO – Two North Carolina A&T Aggie football players received weekly honors from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) after sterling performances during the Aggies opener against Elon on Saturday.
Sophomore defensive end Jermaine McDaniel (6-foot-3, 235, Dillon, S.C.) was named defensive player of the week after recording eight tackles and three sacks in his debut as an Aggie. Junior placekicker Noel Ruiz (5-11, 187, Wilson, N.C.) was named special teams player of the week after his 52-yard field goal at the buzzer lifted the Aggies to a 24-21 win over No. 21 Elon at BB&T Stadium Saturday night.
McDaniel is Division I transfer out of Appalachian State. He said on Monday that he went through a period between transferring from App State where he thought he would never play football again. After getting a call from the Aggies coaching staff, he decided to give football another try and it worked out for him in the Aggies opener.
He became the first Aggie to record three sacks in a game since Justin Cates did it in 2017 against the Charlotte 49ers. McDaniel’s sacks helped the Aggies hold the Phoenix to 19 yards rushing because the Phoenix lost 27 yards on those sacks.
“Before the game, they asked to raise our hand if you were not on this team last year,” said McDaniel. “A lot of hands went up. There are a lot of new faces on our team, but the expectations are the same. We understand that.”
Ruiz’s previous career-high was 43 yards. In the fourth quarter of the Elon game, he had already missed two field goals, one from 43 yards and the other from 40. But N.C. A&T head coach Sam Washington said he had no hesitation when the moment came to put Ruiz in the game for the game-winning 52-yarder.
Ruiz was successful on the kick with plenty of distance to spare. The kick tied a school record shared by Yonnick Matthews who kicked a 52-yarder against in Elon in 2003. It was the Aggies first 50-yard field goal in 15 years and their first game-winning field goal in 15 years.
“As a specialist, you have to have a short memory,” said Ruiz. “My teammates were supportive the whole time so that made it easier to go out there and do my job.”
The Aggies return to action 6 p.m., Saturday as they face the Duke Blue Devils at Wallace Wade Stadium.
N.C. A&T’s late-second win over Elon Saturday helped the Aggies ascend in the national polls. The Aggies moved up five spots in both the FCS STATS media poll and the FCS coaches’ poll.
The Aggies are ranked 15th in the media poll after opening the season ranked 20th. The coaches’ poll has the Aggies ranked 14th moving up from the No. 19 spot from the opening week. The Aggies have been ranked 50 straight weeks in the coaches’ poll.
In the BoxToRow black college football poll, the Aggies are ranked No. 1 again. The Aggies have been ranked in BoxToRow’s top-10 71 straight weeks. They have been No. 1 in the poll in 44 of those weeks.
N.C. A&T’s win over Elon was their third straight win over a ranked FCS opponent and their fourth straight win over the Phoenix.
AGAINST THE ACC
The Aggies will play an ACC opponent for the third time in their history. Both opponents were North Carolina schools in Wake Forest (2004) and the University of North Carolina (2015). This week the Aggies will travel to another ACC school in North Carolina as they face the Duke Blue Devils.
N.C. A&T’s first two games against ACC competition did not go well. They were defeated 42-3 by Wake Forest and 53-14 by UNC. Against non-ACC schools within the state, the Aggies have been successful, however.
The Aggies are 12-5 against in-state FCS schools over the past 10 seasons including four straight wins over Elon and two straight wins over N.C. Central.