NC A&T fell behind early, scored on a dramatic 55-yard pass to even the score at 7 and never led in falling to rival NC Central 28-13 at the DuKe’s Mayo Classic at Panthers Stadium in Charlotte. It was the first loss to the Eagles in the last six games and the first for head coach Sam Washington to the rivals from Durham.
Aggie redshirt freshman QB Zach Yeager got his first start. He finished the first half completing 8 of 13 passes for 118 yards including a 55-yard TD pass to Jameson Warren in the first quarter. It was the first TD pass of Yeager’s career. The Aggies trailed 21-13 at the break. He had 15 completions in 32 attempts in the second half to finish 23 of 45 for 275 yards with one TD and one interception.
He also was A&T’s top rusher, finishing with 59 yards in six carries.
NC A&T head coach Washington on Yeager
“He was up and down,” NC A&T head coach Sam Washington said of the play of his young quarterback. “I think he did a lot of good things but he wasn’t productive. You win and lose by points. We got down in the red zone several times and and came up with no points. We settled for field goals instead of touchdowns.”
Other Duke’s Mayo Classic notes
• Washington was also asked about the effect that former NC A&T co-defensive coordinator Courtney Coard who now has the same job with NCCU had on what the Aggies were doing offensively.
“One thing he did a pretty good job of is, as we were calling in plays, he was telling his team what we would be in,” Washington said. “That was obvious. That was noticeable. We had to go to a two-system call in (to disguise our calls).”
• NC A&T’s 2021 starting quarterback Jalen Fowler did not see action in the Duke’s Mayo Classic. Fowler had reportedly been battling an unnamed health issue but was suited up Saturday. He was listed as Yeager’s back up heading into the Duke’s Mayo Classic.
• One big play in the game was a blocked punt late in the second quarter deep in NC A&T territory that led to NCCU’s third TD of the half. The Eagles went into the break up 21-13.
“Turnovers and big plays, really hurt us,” Washington said. “That blocked punt was a very significant play in the ballgame. That really turned the tide in their favor.” Following the block, NCCU needed five plays from the A&T 14 to score and go up 21-10.
• NC A&T pass rushing specialist Jermaine McDaniel did not play for the Aggies. McDaniel was a first team all-Big South preseason selection. A&T officials said he was out with an injury. McDaniel, who wore No. 93 in his previous two seasons, will wear No. 6 this season.
Lights out in the second half for NC A&T
• At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the lights at Bank of America Stadium were turned off and everyone was asked to turn on the flashlights on their phones. To absolutely no one’s surprise, including this reporter, it appeared everyone in the place, all 35,798 in attendance, had a mobile phone and put on the flashlight.
• NC A&T placekicker Andrew Brown was good on two field goals from beyond 40 yards. He connected on a 41-yarder with 5:38 left in the second quarter to pull the Aggies to within 14-10. He then hit on a 49-yarder at the halftime buzzer to pull A&T within 21-13.
• NC A&T players had names on the back of their jerseys, perhaps a nod to Jackson State head coach Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders. Sanders had said this summer that putting names on the back of the jerseys was the least programs could do. He said players are playing for the names on the back of the jerseys (their family name) as well as on the front (the school’s name). It was the first time in more than a decade that A&T players had names on the back of their jerseys.
• NC A&T was shut out in the second half.