Rivalry aside, NCCU win over N.C. A&T today means .500 finish

Nov. 22, 2013 @ 05:40 PM

Statistical mediocrity is the best N.C. Central can achieve with a win today against N.C. A&T, a far superior outcome than having its archrival deal the deciding blow on a losing season.

Compounding the challenge, NCCU (5-6, 3-4 MEAC) will have to get that .500-finish win on the Aggies’ (6-4, 3-4 MEAC) Greensboro turf (1 p.m., NCCUEaglePride.com).

There is no league title in the cards for these two squads, neither of which has a shot at postseason play. The Eagles and Aggies will pack their pads after the game.

But the rivalry still is what it is.

NCCU interim coach Dwayne Foster said a failure among those with ties to the Aggie-Eagle game to understand its significance means “you’re not living.”

“Huge, huge longstanding rivalry,” Foster said. “Tradition runs deep with this rivalry.”

The teams have met 85 times since they first competed against each other in 1924. The Aggies lead the series 48-31-5.

Six of the last eight meetings have been decided by six points or less, along with four overtime games in the past 16 meetings.

Here’s a more pertinent stat: NCCU has scored a touchdown on special teams in five straight games.

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference football teams have completed 12 weeks of football this season. During six of those weeks, an NCCU football player emerged as the league’s top performer on special teams.

NCCU return specialist Adrian Wilkins has been the MEAC’s special teams player of the week four times this season. He’s certainly been active, leading the MEAC in both kickoff returns (31.2 yards per return), punt returns (14.1 yards per return) and all-purpose yards (130.1 yards per game).

Wilkins, from Forest City, has scored touchdowns on three kickoff returns (100, 96, 91 yards), two punt returns (89, 73 yards) and two receptions. He’s the only player in NCCU history to have scored a touchdown on a punt return, a kickoff return and a pass reception in the same season. Right now, Wilkins is the only Football Championship Subdivision player this season to have returned five kicks for touchdowns.

NCCU is the only team in the nation on any level with four touchdowns on kickoff returns this season.

NCCU’s special teams and defense have combined for nine touchdowns this season.

Eagle linebacker Tazmon Foster leads the FCS with 131 tackles, which is one more than James Madison’s Stephon Robertson. A dozen tackles against A&T would earn Foster the school record for most tackles in a season, which right now is 142 stops.

Foster, a former Division III linebacker at N.C. Wesleyan in Rocky Mount before moving up to play in Division I, began the season dreaming about an MEAC title. That’s no longer a possibility, but beating A&T is.

“I know that about two weeks ago, the dream chasing and getting the ring was out, but to finish the season strong and finish with the guys I love and practice with all week, it feels good,” the linebacker said.

NCCU quarterback Jordan Reid could break the school record for career pass-completion percentage. The mark is 55.1 percent, ,and Reid, a redshirt senior from High Point, has completed 328 of 580 passes for a career completion percentage of 56.6.

A&T coach Rod Broadway used to be NCCU’s head coach, leading the Eagles to back-to-back Division II Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association championships in 2005 and 2006.