WINSTON-SALEM â€“ Odds havenâ€™t been in North Carolina A&Tâ€™s favor the previous five seasons. Too many injuries. Too much attrition. Too many bad bounces.
As the Aggies entered their annual Battle of I-40 with arch-rival Winston-Salem State, the odds didnâ€™t look any better. N.C. A&Tâ€™s football team had to rely on a number of first-year players. The No. 1 kicker was not able to play and neither was starting safety Terrence Webb.
The difference Saturday night, however, was the Aggies actually prevailed despite their circumstances. Senior quarterback Carlton Fears threw for 131 yards on 17-for-31 passing, and he added 78 yards rushing and a touchdown to lead the Aggies to a 19-10 win over the Rams at Bowman Gray Stadium.
It was the first career win for Aggies head coach Alonzo Lee. He becomes just the fifth Aggies head coach to win his debut.
â€œWe look like weâ€™re in good shape,â€™â€™ said Lee. â€œIn the fourth quarter we were still striving. Winston has a great football team, there is no doubt it. If we can stop inflicting wounds on ourselves weâ€™re going to be a pretty good football team.â€
Coupled with the issues the Aggies had going into the game, they faced quite a few obstacles during the game. The Aggies offense did compile 285 yards of offense, which is a moral victory for an offense that struggled mightily last season. But even with the vast improvement, on four separate occasions, the Aggies advanced inside the Ramsâ€™ 20-yard line but came away with no points.
On one of those occasions, the Aggies did not convert a fourth down. They also had the first-half clock run out before they were able to set up for a field goal.
â€œI was trying to take some pressure off my freshman kicker,â€™â€™ said Lee about Patrick Courtney. â€œWe had to find out our freshman kicker had to step up about a week ago. He came into camp with an injury, so he just started kicking August 23rd. We tried to take some pressure off him by gambling. Each time, I thought we could make it.â€
Courtney had a hernia injury throughout preseason camp. Lee said he is still a little gun shy, but believes he will get better as the season progresses and his confidence grows. But Lee needed Courtney to come through Saturday night