If there is one game South Carolina State head football coach Buddy Pough circles on his team's schedule in recent years, there's no question that game is against North Carolina A&T.
The Aggies are the team all other conference teams have measured their abilities against in recent seasons.
NC A&T has won at least a share of 4 of the last 5 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championships.
Saturday's home MEAC game at 1:30 p.m. against the Aggies on Willie E. Jeffries Field inside Oliver C. Dawson Stadium is an opportunity for SC State to make a statement and buckle the Bulldogs into the driver's seat of the conference standings.
Last Saturday's 27-19 win at Bethune-Cookman earned SC State the tiebreaker over the Wildcats this season. A win against the Aggies would do the same for the Bulldogs in that matchup, leaving SC State as the lone MEAC team eligible for the conference title and carrying fewer than 2 conference losses.
A win this weekend against the Aggies (5-2, 3-1) would give the Bulldogs (5-2, 3-1) a leg up in the standings with just 3 games remaining against teams who have just 4 MEAC wins between them.
"A&T has a running back that's got close to 1,000 yards, 2 or 3 wide receivers who are just unbelievable players, their quarterback is throwing it around good, they rush the passer on defense like you wouldn't believe, they run to the football and do everything you can think of, and are even good on special teams," Pough said this week. "We've got our work cut out for us Saturday.
"It's almost like playing a Clemson-looking football team."
The Bulldogs, in recent games, have looked like a different team themselves, on offense. Establishing a solid run game against both Morgan State and Bethune-Cookman led to more opportunities in the passing game. And both redshirt junior Tyrece Nick and redshirt freshman Corey Fields have helped the Bulldogs get yardage and put points on the board. The two could share playing time on Saturday, as they did in Daytona Beach a week ago.
"It'll be a combination of the two quarterbacks, but we will play it by ear," Pough said. "I wish I could tell you that we have this grand plan, that Corey does this and Tyrece does that.
"But, it's all about feel, and we will just go that way. Our confidence is high and we feel like we can play with anybody in this league. Just because we feel that way, we still have to go out and show it. If we can hang with this crowd from A&T, then we can play with anybody."
Hanging with the Aggies could come down to just hanging onto the ball. Where NC A&T has only fumbled the ball 4 times this season, losing one drop, the Bulldogs have lost 7 of their 8 fumbles. The Aggies have rushed for 1,299 yards, compared to 1,135 rushing yards by the Bulldogs. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have passed for 1,479 yards, and the Aggies have passed for just 1,018 yards.
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Defensively, the Bulldogs have made stops in recent games, but many have come in the red zone, instead of out in the open field.
"We do need to get better at 3rd-and-long situations, because we've given up a ton of those things, and I'm really disappointed in that," Pough said. "But, we look like we've got a chance to fix that.
"If we can play like we did at the end of the Bethune-Cookman game last week, then there's a bit of confidence that we can get that fixed. I'm excited as all get out to play these guys. You want to see if you can beat the best. You wouldn't want it any other way. We're going to come to play."
NC A&T linebacker Jacob Roberts picked up a few in-season honors this past week. Roberts was named MEAC Defensive Player and Rookie of the Week, and just a few hours later on Monday he was named STATS FCS National Freshman Player of the Week.
Roberts made his second career start on Saturday against Howard, showing out to the tune of 15 tackles, including 10 solos, tying the FCS season-high mark with six tackles for losses of 19 yards, including three sacks.
Aggies head coach Sam Washington called him a "one-man wrecking crew" after Roberts helped the Aggies blow out the Bison 64-6.
The honors for NC A&T players didn't end there. Tailback Jah-Maine Martin (a Conway native and Coastal Carolina transfer) was named MEAC Offensive Player of the Week, while left tackle Marcus Pettiford was named MEAC Offensive Lineman of the Week.
Martin had three touchdowns and 138 yards rushing in only seven carries against Howard. Martin leads the nation in yards per carry, with an 8.7 average, while ranking second in rushing touchdowns, with 15 through 7 games.
Pettiford graded out at 91 percent and spearheaded an Aggies offense that amassed 574 yards of total offense against Howard.
Cavicante to transfer
Delaware State linebacker Brian Cavicante announced on Monday evening that he was putting his name in the transfer portal for his graduate year of football. Cavicante was the MEAC’s Presesaon Defensive Player Of The Year heading into the 2019 season.
His departure is just the latest in the conference, including MEAC Preseason Offensive Player of The Year selection Caylin Newton, along with a host of his Howard teammates, and N.C. Central quarterback Chauncey Caldwell.