EAST GREENSBORO (September 8, 2018) –North Carolina A&T football believes in developing players over a four or five-year period into the system. Therefore, the coaching staff is selective when choosing to sign transfers from a step above on the FBS level.
But when the coaching staff does bring in FBS talent, they do it well. University of South Carolina transfer Antoine Wilder had a key interception and was all over the place defensively and Coastal Carolina transfer Jah-Maine Martin rushed for a career-high 93 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries to lead the Aggies to a 45-6 win over Gardner-Webb Saturday night at BB&T Stadium.
N.C. A&T (3-0), the sixth-ranked team in the nation (fifth in media poll) has now won 18 out of their last 19 at home including 11 straight. The Aggies extended Division I-FCS’s longest current winning streak to 15. The Aggies closed out their home and home series with GWU the past two seasons by outscoring the Runnin’ Bulldogs 90-9 while not allowing a touchdown in either game. Saturday marked the 18thtime in the past 80 games the Aggies have prevented an opponent from getting in the end zone. No team has rushed for 100 yards against the Aggies this season as the GWU produced just 14 yards on the ground.
It was Martin’s 28-yard touchdown run that got the Aggies going offensively as he scored with the game a little more than two minutes old. The Aggies took a 14-3 lead on their second special teams touchdown of the season as junior Kashon Baker ran back a punt 78 yards for a touchdown to follow-up on Malik Wilson’s 98-yard kickoff return in Week 1 against Jacksonville State.
The Bulldogs (1-1) were able to keep the game close early. GWU quarterback Jordan Smith connected with Kyle Horton for a 33-yard completion which was followed by a 15-yard run Jayln Cagle to set up a 40-yard field goal from Tre Jackson to get the Bulldogs to within eight at 14-6 in the second quarter. But for the second straight week, N.C. A&T put together an impressive end-of-the first-half drive.
Last week at East Carolina, it resulted in a confidence-building touchdown that led the Aggies to the upset. This week, it was a 13-play, 50-yard drive that ended with sophomore kicker Noel Ruiz lifting his confidence and his teammates’ spirits as he booted a career-high 43-yard field goal that cleared the upright with ease.
On the opening drive of the second half, the Aggies started to put GWU away as junior defensive end Darryl Johnson got his hands on Smith and forced him into a hurried pass that landed in the hands of Wilder at the GWU 28-yard line. He returned the INT six yards to give the Aggies a 1st-and-10 from the 22. Four plays later, Senior quarterback Lamar Raynard found senior fullback William Hollingsworth open for a 5-yard TD pass.
“He fills so many roles,” said N.C. A&T coach Sam Washington about Wilder. “He’s been a joy to work with, coach and watch develop. He came in with the right attitude. He told me, ‘Coach, I’m going to make your team better. He’s done just that.’ “
When Washington came to N.C. A&T under former head coach Rod Broadway, the two veteran coaches did not want N.C. A&T to be a destination for multiple transfers like other FCS programs because they wanted to develop their players under their way of doing football life at N.C. A&T. Wilder came to N.C. A&T through a recommendation from Jamari Smith who played running back for the Aggies last season as a graduate transfer out of South Carolina.
“When you look at some of the top programs on this level, they average close to 20 transfers a year. We’re not anywhere close to that,” said Washington. “We are developers around here. But I can say, we have had some success with transfers and they have been successful here. We maybe take three a year, but we’ve been able to plug them in with the guys we already have here and have done well.”
Cornerback Ayodeji Olatoye who played in a Super Bowl and tight end Trey Young are just a few of the successful transfers who come to mind. Rutgers transfer Sam Blue and Wilder are the only two transfer starters on the Aggies defense while the Aggies have one junior college transfer, Macquel Hardy and one graduate transfer Breontae Matthews along their offensive line. Martin, who knew he wanted to come to Aggieland as soon as he got his release from Coastal, scored his second touchdown of the day on a 42-yard run to open the fourth quarter to give the Aggies a commanding 38-6 lead.
“I’m just doing what I’m told to do,” said Martin. “If they want me to come off the bench, then that’s what I’ll do. I just want to win.”
As for the Aggies who came to N.C. A&T through the high school ranks, senior running back and High Point Andrews graduate Marquell Cartwright had 119 yards on 15 carries. Junior and Southern Guilford alum Ron Hunt had a career night with seven catches for 90 yards.
N.C. A&T will get a week off from competition before playing fellow Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference school Morgan State, 6 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 22 at BB&T Stadium. The game will not count toward conference play because each school is playing seven conference games instead of eight this season because of the departure of Hampton University.