Eagles barely avoided joining weekend of upsets
N.C. Central was a handful of plays away from getting bitten by an underdog that was running loose in college football this past weekend.
Reports of that sort of thing surfaced on Thursday, and several snaps at NCCU’s O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium were all that separated the Eagles from being written into that storyline.
On Sept. 5, Winston-Salem State, at the time ranked No. 5 among Division II schools, surrendered its 20-game regular-season winning streak to UNC Pembroke.
Two days later, N.C. A&T was in Boone upsetting Appalachian State. Both schools play in the Football Championship Subdivision, but Appalachian State won the national championships from 2005-07, while A&T is recovering from both lost practice time and scholarships because of NCAA sanctions.
Appalachian State will step up to the Football Bowl Subdivision level next season when it joins the Sun Belt Conference.
NCCU, A&T’s peer in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, was favored over Division II St. Augustine’s in the Eagles’ home opener.
The Eagles flexed their muscles late in the fourth quarter and in two overtime sessions to bind St. Augustine’s, but it took some doing for NCCU to finally cage the Falcons.
NCCU interim coach Dwayne Foster was not buying into the notion that the Eagles should have had their way with the Falcons, picked in the preseason to finish third in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
“No, not at all; they’re a good football team,” Foster said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they went on and won their conference. They played hard, and we allowed them to believe that they could beat us and they got a lot of confidence.”
St. Augustine’s coach Michael Costa recalled some pregame chatter about how NCCU would beat his team by 45 points and not even let the Falcons get on the scoreboard.
“I think we proved we’re not a 45-to-nothing team,” Costa said. “We played with the best of them. They’re I-AA.”
NCCU used to play in the CIAA, which, like the MEAC, features historically black colleges and universities.
Before Saturday, Costa had described how past games between the Falcons and the Eagles would turn into a “neighborhood brawl.”
“HBCU football is the best football in the country, because you throw out all of the divisions,” Costa said. “We tried to recruit some of the same kids. They know each other. They’re from the same neighborhoods. They grow up together, so, yeah, they come to play.”
Next up for NCCU are the Charlotte 49ers, an FCS team in its inaugural football season that breezed past Campbell (FCS) and Chowan (Division II) in weeks 1 and 2.
Charlotte’s football team won’t be affiliated with a league until moving up to FBS ball when it joins Conference USA for the 2015-16 season.
MEAC honors Parent
NCCU’s Oleg Parent is the special teams player of the week in the MEAC.
The junior kicker from Lake Forest, Calif., kicked the winning 19-yard field goal in the second overtime session between St. Augustine’s and NCCU on Saturday.
Parent also booted extra points that tied the game both at the end of regulation and in the first overtime period. His six punts averaged 39.2 yards, one traveling 54 yards while another was downed at the Falcons’ 1-yard line.
In the third quarter, Parent missed his only other field goal try, a 25-yard attempt that was wide left.
“Obviously, it was big by Oleg to regroup himself after that miss and kick the field goal for the win,” Foster said.
The MEAC also recognized the following NCCU players for being among the week’s top performers: defensive back Michael Jones (double-overtime interception that ended St. Augustine’s drive); quarterback Jordan Reid (298 yards total offense, two passing touchdowns in regulation and a rushing touchdown in overtime); and nose guard Aaron Wallace (eight tackles).