DURHAM, N.C.- North Carolina Central University earned a share of the MEAC football championship, as the Eagles battled the Aggies of North Carolina A&T State University in a 21-14 victory Saturday, Nov. 22 in O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium.
With a packed-out stadium, attendance at 13,326, and screaming Eagle fans, NCCU produced its first MEAC co-championship win since transitioning to Division I athletics in 2007.
NC A&T was ranked No. 24 in the nation, and the Eagles earned their first win against a nationally-ranked FCS opponent since the Division I transition.
The NCCU defense stood strong with redshirt senior Ty Brown contributing six tackles, three sacks, and a forced fumble. Theo Livingston and Ryan Smith also added eight tackles to the Eagles’ defense.
Eagles’ running back Andre Clarke obtained his 30th career rushing touchdown and his 15th of the season, placing him second in career and single-season categories at NCCU.
On the air attack, quarterback Malcolm Bell threw for 121 yards, with 195 total offensive yards, including a rushing touchdown.
The Aggies managed an early score in the contest with a 35-yard rushing touchdown from sophomore Tarik Cohen, giving NC A&T its first, and only lead at 7-0 with 12:46 on the clock in first-quarter play.
The Eagles were unable to create an immediate response. It wasn’t until the late second quarter that the NCCU offense found its rhythm.
With 4:18 on the clock in the second quarter, Bell threw to redshirt senior Jazz King, who grabbed a tight pass in between two Aggie defenders for NCCU’s first touchdown of the game. Kicker Eric Fenton was good on the extra point and the game was tied at seven.
The NCCU defense held A&T to zero scores in the second quarter.
Post-halftime was the deal breaker for NC A&T, with two third-quarter rushing touchdowns by the Eagles to gain their lead.
Clarke took a quick three-yard run to finish off a six-play, 84-yard drive by the Eagles, leaving 12:42 on the third-quarter clock; plenty of time for NCCU to keep the momentum.
The Eagles warmed up a rather chilly afternoon when they recovered an Aggie fumble on Nathaniel Tilque’s punt. Bell hit the NC A&T defense with a quarterback keeper to run 37 yards into the end zone.
NCCU was ahead two scores at 21-7 and 6:45 was left in the third quarter.
NC A&T snuck up behind NCCU with an easy three-yard rushing touchdown from Cohen, trimming the Eagle lead to 21-14. Only 45 seconds remained in the third quarter, and the game was too close for comfort for the Eagles.
The fourth quarter was a matter of back-and-forth battling between the offenses and defenses, as no scores were obtained from either team.
With Brown’s forced fumble of Cohen, that was recovered by Smith at the NCCU one-yard line, the Eagles put a stop to what could have been the game-tying touchdown for NC A&T midway through the fourth quarter.
NCCU’s defense shut down the Aggies on their last two drives of the game, leading to the Eagles’ victory.
Cohen gave NC A&T 203 rushing yards and two touchdowns, while Landis Shoffner added to the Aggie defense with nine tackles.