South Carolina State, needing victories in its final two games to assure its 12th straight winning campaign, didn't score any points on offense Saturday in dropping a 17-7 decision to North Carolina A&T in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference contest at Aggie Stadium.
The Bulldogs' only score came on the opening kickoff which safety Jakar Hamiltonreturned 96 yards to put SC State ahead 7-0 following the extra point by Nick Belcher with just 15 seasons elapsed. It would be the only score of the afternoon for Coach Buddy Pough's club.
The host Aggies, who snapped an 11-straight losing streak to SC State with the win, scored two touchdowns within 16 seconds in the fourth quarter to pull out the win. The last win over the Bulldogs can in 2000 by a 66-14 in Charlotte. The Aggies improved to 6-5 on the year and are assured of their first winning campaign since 2003, when NC A&T was 10-3 and won the MEAC.
NC A&'s defense extended its record of not allowing an offensive score to fourteen (14) quarters.
The loss dropped the Bulldogs to 4-6 on the season, and with just one contest remaining – next Saturday's 1:30 p.m. home contest against Savannah State – and wiped away SC State chances for a winning season and an 11th straight win season for Pough.
The Bulldogs had not had a losing campaign since 2000, the next to final season for retired head coach emeritusWillie Jeffries who was succeeded by Pough in 2002. Jeffries was 6-5 in his final season and Pough followed with 10 consecutive winning seasons. But with just one contest left, the best Pough's team can do is 5-6.
"It's a sad day for our team and the university," Pough said after the contest. "This was a game we had to have in order to have a winning season." We got the kickoff return early for a touchdown and had several opportunities to add to that lead but just couldn't make any plays…we didn't get it done. I never thought seven points was enough.
"And, if you give a team enough chances, if you let them hang around, you know they will find a way to get the ball in the end zone sooner or later. North Carolina A&T did a good job of taking us out of everything we wanted to do offensively. And, I have to congratulate them on their victory. Their guys wanted it m ore than we did."
SC State's defense, which spent almost 41(40:48) minutes on the field, gave the Bulldog offense good field position several times in the contest, however, it was unable to capitalize as the Aggies blocked two short field goal attempts and returned a fumble 10 yards for a score in the win.
The Bulldogs, who only had eight total first downs, just one in the second half, was limited to 166 total yards – 93 rushing and 79 through the air. SC State signal caller Richard Cue, who had a school-record 26 completions and 419 passing yards – also a record for a single game, was held in check by the NC A&T defense, ranked second in the nation in the FCS and number one in the MEAC. The redshirt junior connected on just eight of 25 attempts in the contest.
Cue, however, was the Bulldogs' top rusher with 47 yards on eight attempts. Charles Brown came off the bench for 19 yards on five attempts and Jalen Simmons added 17 on six carries before leaving the game with an injury. Tyler McDonald led the Bulldog receivers with four catches for 47 yards.
The Aggies, meanwhile, 401 yards total offense. NC A&T, which use d two quarterbacks in the contest, was paced by Lewis Kindle who had 14 completions in 27 attempts for 135 yards. Mike Mayhew, the preseason MEAC Offensive Player of the Year, powered the ground game with 141 yards. Ricky Lewis added 82 yards and the only offensive touchdown of the day – from 34 yards out -- which put Coach Rod Broadway's team ahead 10-7 with 7:54 left in the game.
Following the Aggie score, SC State was backed up at its own 12 yard line following the kickoff. On first down, wide receiver Caleb Davis fumbled at the 10 yard line and D'Vonte Graham, who had earlier blocked two SC State field goal tries, picked up the ball and ran it in for a score and a 17-7 NC A&T advantage with 7:38 to play. NC A&T had pulled to within 7-3 late in the third when Zach Cimaglia connected on 22-yard field goal
Following the kickoff, SC State was unable to get a first down and the Aggies took over and ran out the clock.
The Bulldogs close out the season next Saturday when they host Savannah State at 1:30 p.m. It will be Senior Day and Faculty and Staff Appreciation Day. The Aggies will play their season finale Saturday against NC Central in Durham.