ORANGEBURG, SC–With first place in the MEAC on the line South Carolina State University was trying to knock off another conference power for the second week in a row. While it came close, the gritty effort of the Bulldogs wasn’t enough in a 22-20 loss to North Carolina A&T State University.
Both the Bulldogs and Aggies entered the game with 3-1 conference records, with Bethune-Cookman sitting at 4-1 at the start of the day. The Bulldogs got the victory over Bethune-Cookman last weekend, which could have been an important tie-breaker moving forward.
The first quarter was quiet with South Carolina State putting a field goal on the board. In the second quarter, the Bulldogs were feeling pretty good pushing the lead to 10-0 on a Labron Morris two-yard touchdown run with 10 minutes remaining.
The Aggies would respond with 22 unanswered, 16 of those before halftime. Kyin Howard picked up a safety for the Aggie defense and Jah-Maine Martin scored on a five yard run with 3:42 to go before the half. With under 30 seconds to go before halftime, Korey Banks hauled in a four-yard pass from Kylil Carter for a 16-10 lead into the half.
In the third quarter, the Aggies pushed the lead to 22-10 behind two field goals from Noel Ruiz.
The fourth quarter saw South Carolina State closed the gap to 22-20. De’Montrez Burroughs got the crowd on its feet first with a 49-yard score from Corey Fields with 14:24 to go in the game. Then a Dillon Bredsen 28-yard field goal brought it back to just a two-point deficit.
The game was decided late, when South Carolina State failed to convert on a third-down play with just over two minutes remaining in the game. There seemed to be a defensive holding penalty on a Fields pass but the ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage which negated any potential for passing interference.
North Carolina A&T responded on the ensuing drive facing a third-down dilemma of their own. But it was Kylil Carter finding his go-to target Elijah Bell on a crossing pattern that secured the first down and allowed the Aggies to run out the clock.
The win keeps NCAT with just one loss in the conference and a date with Bethune-Cookman still on the schedule. The loss by South Carolina State puts them at 3-2 in the conference and no longer controlling its own destiny.