BIRMINGHAM — Nathaniel Dell has a new nickname.
Just like the national convenience store chain, these days, Dell’s Alabama A&M football teammates are calling him “7-Eleven.”
Well, apparently the first location Dell has staked out is off Arkadelphia Road at Birmingham’s Legion Field, and the grand opening was the 77th Magic City Classic.
Dell put together a breakout performance as Alabama A&M topped longtime rival Alabama State 27-10 Saturday afternoon in a SWAC East contest.
“Like my teammates say, just like 7-Eleven, I’m always open,” Dell said.
In the Magic City Classic, that statement was true.
Dell, a freshman from Daytona Beach, Fla., caught six passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns.
“Our guy is a playmaker,” Alabama A&M quarterback Aqeel Glass. “Get the ball in his hands, and more times than not, he’s going have a chance to break a big play.”
Alabama State (2-5, 1-2 in SWAC) learned that lesson the hard way.
Dell flashed his speed and athleticism early in the second quarter when slipped behind Alabama State’s secondary and caught a pass in the end zone for a 56-yard touchdown.
The freshman, who only was playing in his third collegiate game because of an injury, struck again in the fourth quarter when he caught a short pass from Glass and sprinted 81 yards down the sideline for a touchdown that stretched the Alabama A&M (4-4, 3-2) lead to ten.
“To have a game like this, on a stage likes this, that’s what it’s all about,” Dell said. “These are the kind of games you sign up for.”
Alabama A&M never trailed.
After Alabama State’s Talesin Farmer rushed for a 1-yard touchdown to tie the score at 7 apiece, the Bulldogs responded in the third quarter with a 56-yard rushing touchdown from Jordan Bentley.
Bentley led Alabama A&M with 91 rushing yards on eight carries.
A few minutes later, Dell delivered his second receiving touchdown, and then Alabama A&M leaned on its power running game to run the clock down.
Glass threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Burke in the final minutes.
Glass finished with 322 passing yards and three touchdowns, completing 17 of 30 attempts with no interceptions.
“Since the day I got here, the one thing I’ve heard more than anyone else is just how important the Classic is,” first-year Alabama A&M coach Connell Maynor said. “This game is a big deal, so to see our players celebrate this victory tonight is huge. I’m proud for our team.”
Alabama A&M held Alabama State to 313 yards while forcing two turnovers. Rhomel Fields intercepted a pass, while Dylan Hamilton led the team with 10 tackles.
Dell was selected as the game’s offensive MVP, and Hamilton was the defensive MVP.
“As a senior, with this being my last Classic, I definitely wanted to go out on a high note,” Hamilton said. “I’d say we definitely did that. Celebrating a big win like this is what it’s all about.”
Courtesy: AAMU Athletics