No. 10 North Carolina A&T (5-1, 2-0 MEAC) at Duke Blue Devils (0-1, 0-0 ACC)
Date: September 10, 2021
Time: 8 p.m. EST
City/Venue: Durham, N.C./Wallace Wade Stadium
Series: Duke leads, 1-0
The North Carolina A&T Aggies are coming off a 29-18 loss at Furman on Saturday. It marked the first time the Aggies lost their season opener in nine years as Coastal Carolina defeated the Aggies 29-13 on Sept. 1, 2012. The Aggies trailed 23-3 in the third quarter before two Ron Hunt touchdown receptions got the Aggies back to within one score at 26-18. However, some late miscues by the Aggies and a late field goal from Furman clinched the win for the Paladins. As a result of the loss, the Aggies dropped out of both FCS polls. They were ranked No. 24 in the AFCA Coaches Poll and No. 25 in the FCS Stats Preform Poll.
A&T had trouble getting their running game going against the Paladins. All-American running back Jah-Maine Martin rushed for 35 yards on 12 carries, and the Aggies compiled 71 yards for the game. Wide receivers Ron Hunt and Korey Banks emerged as offensive threats as Hunt caught five passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns. Banks also caught five passes and totaled 66 yards receiving. The Aggies played without their entire starting defensive line and starting cornerback DJ Crossen sustained an injury on the third play of the game. The Aggies also had two defensive players ejected for targeting.
Freshman linebacker Tyquan King emerged with seven tackles and an interception. Junior linebacker Joseph Stuckey had his second career double-digit tackles game with 13. The Aggies will try to avoid their first 0-2 start since the 2010 season. A&T has never defeated a school from a Power Five conference. Every Power Five the Aggies have faced in history have been a member of the ACC. They lost to Wake Forest in 2004, North Carolina in 2015 and Duke in 2019.
Also read: North Carolina A&T to require vaccination or negative COVID-19 test result at sporting events
A&T HEAD COACH SAM WASHINGTON
Sam Washington is a 1982 graduate of Mississippi Valley State. Washington is 19-6 (.760) as the Aggies head coach in his third season on the field and fourth overall. In his rookie season as a head coach, Washington was named the 2018 MEAC coach of the year after leading the Aggies to a MEAC title and a Celebration Bowl victory. In year two, the Aggies won the MEAC again under Washington and took home the Celebration Bowl. In addition, he has two HBCU national titles, and Washington is off to the best two-year start of any football coach in A&T history.
THE DUKE BLUE DEVILS
The Blue Devils suffered a 31-28 defeat at the hands of the Charlotte 49ers despite rushing for 352 yards, the fifth-most in a single game in Duke’s history. The Blue Devils held a 28-24 lead with under two minutes to play but could not stop the 49ers from marching down the field and scoring the eventual game-winning touchdown. Charlotte quarterback Chris Reynolds threw for 324 yards and three scores en route to their first Power Five win.
Running back Mataeo Durant is the leader of the Blue Devils running back corps and the reigning ACC player of the week after rushing for 255 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries against Charlotte last weekend. In the 2019 game vs. A&T, wide receiver Jason Calhoun racked up eight receptions for 105 yards and two touchdowns against the Aggies.
The Blue Devils have a wealth of experience and talent on their offensive line, highlighted by redshirt senior center Jack Wohlabaugh, who was named to the Rimington Trophy Watch List, which is presented to the nation’s premier center. In 2020, Duke was the second-least sacked team in the ACC, surrendering just 37 sacks in 11 games. They were also recently named one of the top offensive line units by Pro Football Focus.
In 2020, Duke had the worst overall defense in the ACC, giving up 56 touchdowns in 11 games and an average of 38.1 points per game. They were the only team to give up more than 400 points (419). 31 of those 56 touchdowns allowed came on the ground. The Blue Devils also allowed 213.2 rushing yards per game, the worst in the conference.
DUKE’S HEAD COACH
Duke head coach David Cutcliffe enters his 14th season with the program. He is the sixth-longest tenured head coach in the country, tied with Alabama’s Nick Saban. When Cutcliffe took over in 2008, the Blue Devils had won just nine games in four years, four of those coming in 2005 alone. Since 2012, however, Duke has won 59 games in 10 seasons. He is a two-time ACC coach of the year (2012 & ’13).
North Carolina A&T and Duke are two very different football programs. Different play styles, different conferences, different cities, but they have one glaring similarity – both of their quarterbacks made their first start since high school last weekend. Graduate student signal-caller Gunner Holmberg hadn’t started a game in 1,379 days before getting the nod against Charlotte last Friday. He went 20-for-29, 228 yards and a touchdown. Similarly, A&T redshirt junior Jalen Fowler arrived in Greensboro in 2017 and, before last Saturday, had not started a game since Dorman high school five years ago.
THE OPPONENT’S POINT OF VIEW
“First of all, it’s another in-state school and a really good program. I think it’s good for our community here in Durham. I think it’s good for our state to do that. I think it’s good for Duke University to bring the HBCU programs on our campus when we can and when it works out in a scheduling circumstance. So, yeah, I think there’s some significance to that. I approached him about that opportunity to bring a community together. And, of course, this is Durham Night. There are a lot of Duke fans in Durham, and I know there are a lot of A&T fans in Durham. So hopefully, we have a great turnout in the stadium on a Friday night. I’m excited about what the prospects of that are.”
Duke head coach David Cutcliffe on the visiting Aggies
- Duke is 10-3 in home openers under coach Cutcliffe. They have won eight of their last nine.
- In the ACC’s preseason football poll, the Blue Devils were picked to finish seventh in the Coastal Division.
- Durant is Duke’s lone preseason all-ACC selection.
- Duke is 19-6 in their last 25 non-conference games.
Courtesy: North Carolina A&T Athletics