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The Voice of the Black Community

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Aggies, Bulldogs raise the bar in Week 1
 
Published Friday, September 6, 2019
by Bonitta Best

The HBCU football season has gotten off to a heck of a bang.

Erase from your mind Howard’s 79-0 loss to Maryland – a game that never should have been played, and let’s focus on the good that came out of last weekend’s season openers.

First, North Carolina A&T came through – again – with a hard-fought win over Elon.

Both teams were ranked heading into the game: the Aggies at No. 21 and Elon at No. 19. A&T trailed 7-0 early on and looked as sluggish as a drunk sailor. The team twice had a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter, but kicker Noel Ruiz missed two field goals from 43 and 40 yards. Many teams would have tanked.

But the Aggies defense held Elon to 3-and-out with 25 seconds left, setting up Ruiz’s 52-yarder as time expired.

“We never lost confidence in him,” A&T coach Sam Washington said. “There were different things we corrected like his shoes, and he felt very positive about going out and kicking that last kick. I saw the look in his eyes, he wanted that opportunity and he nailed it.”

This weekend the Aggies face another FBS opponent in Duke.

A&T has defeated at least one FBS team the past three seasons: East Carolina last year, Charlotte in 2017 and Kent State in ’16. But none of the three teams are as impressive as the Blue Devils, despite their 42-3 shellacking to Alabama in their season opener. And you know they’ll want to erase that loss by embarrassing their next opponent. Washington isn’t fooled.

“I think we are physically strong enough to stand some of the power stuff. But they have so much size and speed,” he said. “You know, we’re up against guys 6-5, 330 pounds who are very agile and can move. All the skilled guys run 4.5 or better. Those are the two main challenges. But we can run a little bit, too.”

Despite the obvious mismatch on paper, don’t count the Aggies out.

Pough gets his day

South Carolina State coach Buddy Pough wasn’t even supposed to be back this season. Just about every media outlet had Pough ending his 14-year career at his alma mater in 2018.

But despite a season-ending loss to North Carolina Central, the Bulldogs won four of their last five games, and Pough was given a one-year contract to ride out into the sunset.

Not so fast.

In the biggest HBCU upset of the weekend, SCSU defeated nationally ranked Wofford 28-13 to give Pough his biggest win since a 17-7 victory over nationally ranked Furman on Sept. 20, 2014.

How many times have we seen it? A HBCU leads at halftime only to blow it in the second half. But the Bulldogs jumped on the Terriers early and didn’t let up. S.C. State hadn’t defeated Wofford since 1976!!

I think just about everybody in the MEAC jumped up and let out a scream for Pough, who is one of the most respected coaches, and men, in all of college football. No matter how bad things got during the last few years or how much trash fans and alumni talked, he never badmouthed his alma mater or the administrators. He has been a gentleman through it all.

So-o-o-o-o, if SCSU winds up winning the conference title, will Pough ride off into the sunset or extend that contract just a little bit longer?

 

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