GREENSBORO - All of sudden the tailgate food outside of Aggie Stadium tastes a little better. The Blue and Gold Marching Machine sounds a little crisper. And the Aggies locker room, well in a word, it was "raucous."
Why? Surprise, Surprise! The North Carolina A&T football team is 2-0 in the MEAC after defeating the defending MEAC Co-Champion Bethune-Cookman Wildcats 22-3 Saturday afternoon. It was the Aggies first win over the Wildcats since 2003. Three points are the fewest points the Wildcats have ever scored against N.C. A&T in the 35-game series.
Saturday also marked the first time the Aggies have held opponents to under seven points in consecutive weeks since shutting out Norfolk State and holding Morgan State to six points in back-to-back weeks in 2000.
But what perhaps is most impressive is that a year after posting 461 rushing yards against the Aggies, the B-CU run game was held to five on Saturday. The Aggies (3-2, 2-0 MEAC) are a half game back of Norfolk State for the conference lead.
"We knew Bethune-Cookman had speed," said senior N.C. A&T defensive back Justin Ferrell. "But the coaches preached we have to run to the football. The D-Line did an awesome job of penetrating. It was a total team effort."
Bethune-Cookman, who came into the game ranked as the No. 2 team in black college football, had trouble establishing any type of offensive rhythm. Bethune-Cookman (2-3, 1-2) came into the game with the No. 1 rushing offense in the conference after compiling 219 rushing yards against Division I Miami last week.
The Wildcats' longest drive on Saturday was 34 yards as the Aggies forced five turnovers. B-CU had four drives that ended with negative yardage, and the struggles started early. The Wildcats had to run their first play from scrimmage at their own 9-yard line after Courtney Keith fumbled the kickoff.
In what was an obvious mix up, B-CU quarterback Jamarr Robinson tossed a lateral to no one. It resulted in the ball rolling out of the back of the end zone for an Aggies two-point safety.
B-CU's only score of the game was set up by a Lewis Kindle interception in the first quarter. Ryan Davis returned the pick 27 yards to the Aggies 26. The Aggies defense held the Wildcats to just one yard on the drive as Sven Hurd booted a 42-yard field goal to give the Wildcats a 3-2 lead.
The Aggies quickly responded with an 11-play, 59-yard drive that ended in a 29-yard field goal by Jose Garcia-Camacho. On the Wildcats' ensuing drive, they managed to convert a 3rd-and-27 as Jackie Wilson completed a 38-yard pass to Mauri Francois. But on 4th-and-2 from the Aggies 33, Brandon Young collided with Wildcats running back Anthony Jordan, stopping him for a 1-yard gain.
N.C. A&T took over and on the fourth play of the drive; the Aggies got a 360-spin move from running back Dominique Drake that resulted in a 33-yard gain. It set up a 7-yard touchdown pass from Kindle to fullback Devin Moore as the Aggies took a 12-3 halftime lead.
"I don't want to hear anyone talk about what Bethune-Cookman didn't do," said B-CU head coach Brian Jenkins. "A&T lined up today and whooped our tails. I'm not surprised by this because I've told everyone from the beginning; there are no slouches in this league."
The running combination of Mike Mayhew and Drake was too much for the Wildcats to handle. Mayhew, the MEAC's leading rusher, finished with 117 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries. Drake had 93 yards on 19 carries.
Defensive end Tony Mashburn led the Aggies defensively with seven tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Coming into Saturday's game, the Wildcats had averaged 276.3 yards rushing against N.C. A&T over the last four games, and they were averaging 45 points a contest over the last seven.
"Not against these Aggies," said N.C. A&T head Rod Broadway. "As a football team and as a football coach, you can't look too far behind and you and you can't look too far ahead because there is somebody right in front of you. Today, we need to get focused on next week. As big of a win as this was, we can have just as big of a loss if we don't prepare for next week."
The Aggies host the Greatest Homecoming on Earth next week as they welcome in Delaware State at 1:30 p.m.