DURHAM, N.C. — North Carolina Central University overcame a 14-point, first-half deficit and scored the only two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to earn a 33-28 victory over MEAC foe South Carolina State University during a nationally-televised ESPNU contest on Thursday night at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium.
A swarming NCCU defense registered 12 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including three sacks, while holding the Bulldogs to only 80 yards of total offense in the second half. Junior safety Alden McClellon paced the Eagles with 3.0 stops for a loss with a sack and eight total takedowns. Senior linebacker Reggie Hunter collected a team-best nine tackles with 2.5 hits for a loss and a pass breakup, while fellow linebacker Kenneth O’Neal added eight tackles with 2.0 stops for a loss.
The NCCU defense even contributed in the scoring column, as junior safety Davanta Reynolds halted an S.C. State drive when he returned a fumble 85 yards for a touchdown.
Offensively, NCCU (2-1, 1-0 MEAC) was led by freshman quarterback Chauncey Caldwell with a game-high 91 yards rushing and two passing touchdowns. Caldwell’s first pass attempt of the night found senior wide receiver Jordan Fieulleteau in the end zone for a 27-yard score. The Durham, North Carolina native capped the evening with the game-winning 38-yard pass to junior tight end Josh McCoy with 5:24 left in the contest.
Caldwell’s heroics may not have been possible if not for sophomore quarterback Naiil Ramadan, who entered the game during a critical drive in the fourth quarter when Caldwell was temporarily sidelined. Ramadan scrambled to his right and fired a strike to senior receiver Jacen Murphy for a 20-yard touchdown.
And while Ramadan proved he’s a clutch performer, the right foot of junior kicker Aedan Johnson also proved worthy of the tag. Johnson nailed field goals of 35 and 41 yards to keep the Eagles close in the third quarter, and he converted all three extra-point kicks.
S.C. State (1-2, 0-1 MEAC) was charged by sophomore quarterback Dewann Ford with 223 yards and two touchdowns through the air and a team-high 29 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Linebacker Darius Leonard, the MEAC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, amassed a game-best 12 tackles for the Bulldogs.
The Eagles have now won 16 consecutive conference games and 10 straight at home.
After opening the season with three outings in Durham, NCCU will leave the Bull City for the first time next week to play Florida A&M in a second straight Thursday night ESPNU game on Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m.
Courtesy: NCCU Athletics