Trailing 28-13 with the majority of the fourth quarter remaining quarterback, Zach Yeager and the North Carolina A&T offense needed to mount a drive to stay in the game.
Starting at their own 4-yard line, the Aggies plotted down the field to reach the North Carolina Central 6. On 4th-and-goal, a heave by Yeager into the back of the end zone was snagged by running back Bhayshul Tuten but his feet landed inches out of bounds.
A 20-play, 75-yard drive ended with no points. The offense slumped off the field toward the sideline understanding that the opportunity to come back had come up short.
And even after getting the ball back, the Aggies simply could not overcome themselves. Tuten rushed for what appeared to be a touchdown only to have it negated by a holding penalty.
Those sequences summed up a night where everything went wrong for the Aggies and everything went right for NCCU in a 28-13 win on Saturday night at the Duke’s Mayo Classic in front of 35,798 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
NCCU QB Davius Richard threw for two scores and ran for two more in the win that broke a four-game losing streak against the Aggies.
Richard had a pair of scoring runs of 1-yard and threw touchdown passes of 8 and 16 yards to Kyle Morgan and E.J. Hicks respectively. Richard threw for 200 yards and ran for 54 and the Eagles never trailed.
“We don’t worry about last week or last year,” said Eagles coach Trei Oliver. “This is a different team than we were a year ago. We knew we could win this game. We knew that we will win this game and I told them that before the game. I’m not disrespecting North Carolina A&T, but I knew what kind of talent we had.”
Yeager threw for 275 yards and a touchdown and ran for 59 yards on six carries for North Carolina A&T. But the Aggies were blanked in the second half.
The Aggies, however, were hurt by nine penalties, allowing NCCU to go 10-of-16 on third downs and only able to convert 2-of-5 opportunities on fourth down.
But the crusher was allowing a blocked punt late in the second quarter to set up the Eagles deep in NC A&T territory which led to a Richard TD run to put the Aggies behind 21-13 at halftime.
“Turnovers and big plays really hurt us,” Sam Washington said. “That blocked punt was a very significant play in the ballgame. That really turned the tide in their favor.”
Washington was also adamant that the mistakes would “be addressed” ahead of the Aggies matchup with No.1 North Dakota State next Saturday.
The Eagles now are 6-2 in pro venues. It was the 93rd meeting between the two schools. The Aggies still lead the series 53-35-5.
North Carolina A&T has won 22 of the last 31 meetings while the Eagles are 8-8 against them in the last 16.