NCATAGGIES.COM
Sun, Apr 8

GREENSBORO (April 8, 2018) – Weather cooperated for North Carolina A&T football on Sunday which has been far from a guaranteed this spring.

Rain pushed back the annual Blue & Gold Spring Game at Aggie Stadium from its original Saturday, April 7 date to a sunny Sunday afternoon where the Aggies in Blue defeated the Aggies in Gold, 13-3.

Unlike past springs, N.C. A&T’s Blue & Gold Spring Game will not culminate spring practice for the Aggies. N.C. A&T still has two of their allotted 15 spring practices remaining because inclement weather forced the Aggies to miss practices in March.

“We’re not done yet,” said N.C. A&T first-year coach Sam Washington. “The two makeup practices will give us a chance to continue to work on some things we saw today that need a little more fine-tuning. We saw some things we liked, but you always want more. We have a long way to go before we’re a football that can go out there and compete for another title.”

In past years, because of a lack of numbers, the spring game was simply offense vs. defense with the defense earning points for various things such as three-and-outs and interception returns for touchdowns.

This year the Aggies, who are coming off a historic 12-0 season where they became the first Division I-HBCU program to go unbeaten and untied, had enough healthy bodies to split the team in two to play what was somewhat close to a regular game.

Blue did play against Gold but there was also red and white involved. The quarterbacks wore red jerseys and alternated playing QB for each team. The Aggies offensive line and specialists wore white and alternated playing for each team.

Sunday served as an opportunity for Aggie fans to see players in action that they normally don’t get to see. They also got a chance to see who is emerging as future standouts for the Aggies.

“We see the spring as an opportunity to develop players,” said Washington. “It was good for us to get a chance today who can and who can’t and who will and won’t.”

The offensive standouts from 2017 played sparingly. Reigning Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference offensive player of the year Lamar Raynard completed six of the passes he threw for 85 yards including a 50-yard completion to Blue wide receiver Zachary Leslie who will be a redshirt sophomore for the 2018 season.

Leslie’s catch set-up a touchdown from another 2017 offensive standout as first-team All-MEAC running back and the reigning MEAC leading rusher Marquell Cartwright scored from 1-yard out to give Blue a 7-0 lead. Cartwright carried the ball six times for 32 yards including an 18-yard run on his first carry of the afternoon. The MEAC’s leader in reception last season, first-team All-MEAC receiver Elijah Bell, did not play.

In his place, Blue receivers Ron Hunt and Leslie stepped up. Hunt finished with five receptions for 44 yards and Leslie had three grabs for 88 yards and a touchdown. Blue also had the better of it on the ground as University of North Carolina transfer Darius Graves had 70 yards on 15 carries.

On a 6-play 65-yard touchdown drive, Graves had runs for 13 and 10 that led to a 27-yard TD reception from Kylil Carter to Leslie to give Blue a 13-0 lead after the extra point was missed. Carter, the Aggies No. 2 man at QB last season, finished 8-for-16 for 105 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Jalen Fowler, who took a redshirt last season, was 6-for-11 for 52 yards. The top Gold receiver was Justin McDaniel who snagged three catches for 32 yards.

But practice No. 13 for the Aggies was certainly about defense. Gold managed only 89 yards of offense on 44 plays. Blue managed 261 yards of offense on 56 plays. First-team All-MEAC defensive end Darryl Johnson had six tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss for Blue. Blue defensive back Justin Philip added six tackles.

Linebacker Elijah Westbrook led the Gold with seven tackles, while linebacker Kyin Howard added five stops. Derrek Williams II intercepted a pass for Gold. Gold got on the board on the final play of the scrimmage as Noel Ruiz connected on a 27-yard field goal. The two big plays on the drive was a 24-yard completion from Fowler to McDaniel and a 17-yard Fowler completion to Rashad Bovain. 

“I thought our attitude was good today,” said Washington. “I saw guys flying around and doing some positive things. I think we can be better upfront, but I see some remedies for that in the future.”

The remainder of the Aggies offseason will be an ambitious one. After their final two practices, the Aggies will begin summer workouts and then will have to report early for camp because the Aggies will have an early start to the season with an Aug. 25 opening-game against nationally-ranked Jacksonville State in the Guardians FCS Kickoff Classic to air on ESPN.