DURHAM, N.C. – North Carolina Central University’s quest for a historic three-peat as Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions will travel down a similar path during the upcoming football campaign.
After repeating as conference co-champions and posting the most wins as a Division I-FCS program with an 8-3 record last season, NCCU’s 11-game 2016 football schedule is nearly identical to last year’s line-up. The Eagles have non-conference rematches with Triangle foes Duke and Saint Augustine’s, and face the same MEAC opponents as they did when achieving a 7-1 league mark in 2015 under the leadership of Jerry Mack, who became the first head coach in school history to win 15 games in his first two seasons.
With consecutive league titles in hand, this year’s Eagles squad will attempt to do something that no NCCU team has been able to do – win a third straight conference championship.
NCCU kicks off the 2016 season on Sept. 3 against Durham neighbor Duke University in the Bull City Gridiron Classic. The Blue Devils are coming off an 8-5 season that included a win over Indiana in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Duke has won all four contests in the series with the Eagles that started in 2009.
The lone newcomer to NCCU’s schedule is Western Michigan of the Mid-American Conference (FBS) on Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. in Kalamazoo, Michigan, for the first gridiron meeting between the two universities. The Broncos closed out last season with a win over nationally-ranked Toledo to claim a share of the MAC West title, followed by a victory against Middle Tennessee in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl for the program’s first bowl triumph to finish with an 8-5 record.
The Eagles’ first home game is on Sept. 17 versus Saint Augustine’s, a former Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association foe, at 6 p.m. inside O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium. This will be the 32nd meeting between the Falcons and Eagles, with NCCU holding a 28-2-1 advantage in the series.
NCCU begins MEAC play on the road at Norfolk State on Sept. 24. The Eagles celebrated homecoming last season with their third straight win over the Spartans to improve their series advantage to 8-5 over NSU.
On Oct. 1, NCCU will face fellow back-to-back conference co-champions Bethune-Cookman in Daytona Beach, Florida. The Eagles defeated the Wildcats in the first meeting back in 1994, but B-CU has beaten NCCU in each of the last six contests since 2010, including last year’s heart-breaking two-point setback that was the Eagles’ lone league loss.
After playing on the road in four of the first five weeks, NCCU returns home to O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium for four of its last six regular-season games.
The Eagles host the Rattlers of Florida A&M on Oct. 8 at 4 p.m. Last year in Tallahassee, Florida, NCCU used a late field goal to edge the Rattlers for the first of seven consecutive victories. FAMU leads the series 6-2-1.
NCCU stays in Durham to celebrate homecoming on Oct. 15 versus Savannah State at 2 p.m. The Eagles have won the last four meetings with SSU to push the series advantage to 8-2-1. The Eagles also boast a record of 61-19-2 (.756 winning percentage) on homecoming since 1931.
The Eagles hit the road to play Morgan State on Oct. 22 in Baltimore, Maryland. The last two matchups at Hughes Stadium have been decided by a touchdown in the final minute of the game. NCCU triumphed in 2015, but the Bears have won seven of the last 10 meetings with the Eagles to extend their series cushion to 24-14-2.
After an open week on Oct. 29, NCCU travels to “The First State” for the first time since 2011 to face Delaware State on Nov. 5. The Eagles have won seven of the last eight meetings against the Hornets, including three in-a-row, to improve their series lead over DSU to 16-6.
On Nov. 12, NCCU comes back to Durham to host Howard at 2 p.m. The Eagles have downed the Bison in four straight contests to take a 10-9-1 edge in the series. Howard’s last victory at NCCU was on Oct. 15, 1994.
The Eagles close out the 2016 regular season with the 88th meeting against rival North Carolina A&T on Nov. 19 at 2 p.m. inside O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium. In each of the last two seasons, NCCU wrapped up the campaign with wins over the nationally-ranked Aggies to earn a share of the conference title.
While aiming to make NCCU history with a third straight league championship, the Eagles will also be vying to represent the MEAC in the second annual Celebration Bowl against the champion from the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
NCCU will hold its spring football game on Friday, April 8 at 6 p.m. inside O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium.
Courtesy: NCCU Athletics