N.C. A&T Loses to Piedmont Rival Elon in First-Ever CAA Game: How will it go the rest of the way, for the (0-3) Aggies? Any predictions???

from the N.C. A&T Aggies website…www.ncataggies.com

ELON, NC –North Carolina A&T will use its upcoming bye week to ask the questions, find the answers and try to reignite a season that has the Aggies off to an 0-3 start after a 27-3 Coastal Athletic Association (CAA) Football Conference loss to Piedmont rival Elon at Rhodes Stadium on Saturday.

Saturday marked the Aggies first-ever CAA game two years after they made their Big South Conference debut. But the game looked like their first two non-conference contests. A&T could not find a rhythm in the passing game, and over time, the opponent’s running game gradually wore down an Aggies defense that had been on the field for a long time.

It did not help the Aggies offense that officials tossed veteran wideout Taymon Cooke from the game for targeting on a tackle he made on the punting team in the second quarter.

“Clearly, our performance was not good enough,” said A&T head coach Vincent Brown. “We struggled to move the ball again. Defensively, we had way too many missed tackles early. We did not set the edge, letting the ball get outside. There were too many mistakes to overcome, and you can’t do that against a good football program. We must find a way to come together to win games.”

Different from the previous two weeks, however, the Aggies running game failed to generate 100 yards. The Aggies combined for 81 yards rushing. Coupled with 62 yards passing, the Aggies compiled 143 yards of offense and turned the ball over twice. Despite those setbacks, the Aggies had some opportunities to break through against the Phoenix, an NCAA Division I-FCS playoff team a year ago.

A&T had an excellent opening drive, completing a 24-yard pass to running back Kenji Christian and ripping off a 13-yard run from Wesley Graves. Receiver Ger-Cari Caldwell returned to the Aggies lineup after missing the season’s first two weeks.

He had a chance to haul in a touchdown pass from starting quarterback Zach Yeager on a deep route but could not bring it in. A false start on a 3rd-and-10 on the Elon 40-yard line forced the Aggies to move back five yards, leading to an eight-yard completion to Elijah Kennedy that forced an Aggies punt from the Elon 37.

After a Jack Berkowitz 29-yard field goal made it 20-0 in the third quarter, two Elon unsportsmanlike conduct penalties after the play led to the Phoenix kicking the ball off from its own 10. As a result, the Aggies got the ball 1st-and-10 from the Phoenix 37. But on the drive’s first play, Caleb Curtain intercepted Yeager’s pass, giving the Phoenix the ball at its own 33.

Fortunately, A&T’s Avarion Cole returned the favor three plays later, returning a Matthew Downing interception nine yards to the Elon 17. The play led to the Aggies getting on the board with a 39-yard field goal from Owen Daffer, cutting the Elon lead to 20-3.

Trailing 27-3 in the fourth quarter, the Aggies got a 34-yard run from Graves and had a shot to score on a deep pass from Yeager to Christian as Yeager was under duress. But the pressure led to an underthrown pass, making it a tough catch for Christian to bring in.

Some of those missed opportunities could have changed the complexity of the game. Elon rushed for 260 yards but only finished with 352 yards of offense, going 0-for-13 on third-down conversions. Elon did go 3-for-3 on fourth-down conversions.

“I think defensively, if you look at our overall performance, our guys played with grit. We were really good on third downs, and our guys kept fighting despite being in really bad field position a lot in the second and third quarters, so that’s a bright spot. But offensively, we’ve got a lot of work to do. We must be able to generate some explosive plays. We have to remain on schedule, and most importantly, we have to produce some points.”

Graduate linebacker BJ Turner(Page HS) led the Aggies with 11 tackles, giving 35 in three games. Most of the yardage gained came from Graves and Christian. Graves finished with 62 yards rushing on 11 carries, and Christian had 113 all-purpose yards on 12 touches. The Aggies have an off week before traveling to Norfolk, Va., to face former Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) foe Norfolk State in a 2 p.m. kickoff from William “Dick” Price Stadium.

“The bye week comes at a critical time for us,” said Brown. “We’re a little dinged up, and obviously, we need the time to come together and figure out how we are going to fix the things that are coming up on each side of the ball right now.”