South Carolina State and North Carolina A&T will have vastly different motivations entering its matchup Saturday in Orangeburg.
The Bulldogs are looking to end a five-game losing streak to the Aggies dating back to 2015 and keep pace in a tight MEAC race.
North Carolina A&T, on the other hand, is entering Saturday’s matchup hoping to build momentum for next season after what’s been a rocky maiden voyage in the Big South.
“That’s why we’re playing them because the rivalry is so strong,” head coach Buddy Pough said Monday during the week MEAC coaches media availability. “It’s a big deal between the two programs and the fan bases. Our whole schedule is designed that way. We have guarantee games, conference games, and then those games that connect us to former conference foes like Bethune-Cookman and FAMU. Our fans get excited about seeing those teams.”
“We need to prepare well this week,” Pough said. “North Carolina A&T has the potential to come in here and beat us up if we’re not ready. They are just so physical up front on both sides of the ball. They have an idea of how they want to attack you.”
The Aggies (4-5) offense revolves around senior running back Jah-Maine Martin who leads the team with 412 yards and three touchdowns this season, though well below the expected production of previous seasons.
The Bulldogs (5-4, 4-0 MEAC) currently lead the MEAC by one full game over Norfolk State and North Carolina Central with two weeks left in the regular season.
On the other spectrum, it’s been a down season for the defending Celebration Bowl and Black College National champions.
After getting off to a 2-0 start in Big South play, North Carolina A&T has lost three of its last four and carries a disappointing 1-4 record on the road.
“Right now, they’re in our way. We want to finish strong,” said Aggies head coach Sam Washington. “I think it’s important that we finish on a strong note, on a winning note, to carry over into next year. It’s hard to win in South Carolina — in Orangeburg, it’s hard.
“Coach Pough and his staff will have their team prepared and ready to play. I think we’ve won, I just learned, the last five, and I doubt if any of them have been by more than a touchdown. It’s been competitive from start to finish, and we don’t anticipate it being any different this week.”
Linebacker Jacob Roberts understands that despite this old MEAC rivalry being relegated to non-conference status, the clash still means something.
“South Carolina State has always been a good team, a tough team, said Roberts. “So it’s always going to be a tough battle every time we play them, and we’re going to give them our best shot.”