Eagles aim to spread their wings in nation's capital Saturday
N.C. Central’s Kevin Staton, Kevin Thompson, Gabe Smith and Aaron Wallace will be in their hometown of Washington, D.C., Saturday when the Eagles start their Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference schedule against Howard (1 p.m., NCCUEaglePride.com.)
Smith, NCCU’s fullback, said he’ll play with a chip on his shoulder pads because Howard didn’t show him love while he was nearby in high school.
“Howard didn’t recruit me,” Smith said. “I’m going to hit the linebackers a little bit harder. I’m going to just talk a lot of trash, I’m not going to lie to you. Just to let them know what they missed out on.”
NCCU (2-2) needs Smith to handle Howard’s linebackers, and the Eagles’ offensive linemen must push around some Bison defenders to clear holes and get an inconsistent running game in gear.
Injuries along the Eagles’ offensive front coupled with some hobbled NCCU backs certainly haven’t helped the ground game. A bye last Saturday allowed the Eagles to heal, NCCU interim coach Dwayne Foster said.
Some of NCCU’s players used their extra time off last week to travel to Greensboro to watch N.C. A&T beat Howard 27-19.
The Aggies ran for 168 yards on the Bison (1-3, 0-1 MEAC), who give up 172.8 rushing yards per game. NCCU averages 117.8 rushing yards per game.
NCCU’s players saw Howard quarterback Greg McGhee throw for 186 yards and two touchdowns against A&T. The talk is that McGhee (6-3, 208) is the real deal.
“Greg throws a wonderful, wonderful football,” Foster said. “He can put it anywhere it needs to be placed.”
McGhee can tuck it and run, too. He’ll be orchestrating Howard’s read-option offense, and while there aren’t a lot of designed runs for McGhee, the junior can make something happen with his legs if a play breaks down, Foster said.
It will be imperative for NCCU’s defenders to rally to the football when McGhee takes off. He ran for 50 yards on 17 carries against A&T.
The Eagles also have to get Howard’s offense off the field on third-down situations, Foster said.
McGhee, a lefty, is first in the MEAC in total offense with 259.5 yards per game.
“He’s an absolute handful. He can put the ball wherever you like across the field,” Foster said. “He’s a true dual-threat quarterback.”
Foster is a D.C. guy, too, having grown up 10 minutes from Howard. He said he used to run around the field at the Bison’s William H. Greene Stadium when he was a kid.
Howard recruited Foster, but he wanted to spread his wings and ended up at Delaware State.
Foster coached in D.C. at Archbishop Carroll High School, his alma mater.