Written by Thomas Scott
August 26, 2018
Cramton Bowl |Montgomery, AL– Last season was nothing short of historic for the North Carolina A&T Aggies. They finished the year undefeated and sent legendary coach, Rod Broadway, into retirement with a Celebration Bowl victory.
Yesterday presented a tremendous opportunity for the Aggies to forge a new identity under Coach Sam Washington. Riding high off last year’s success, the Aggies were selected to play in the 2018 FCS Kickoff. The FCS Kickoff is a nationally televised game that gives top FCS programs a major platform to compete. This year, the #14 ranked North Carolina A&T Aggies traveled to Montgomery, Alabama to face the #6 Jacksonville State Gamecocks on ESPN.
On paper, the 2018 FCS Kickoff seemed like it might have been a shoot out between two elite quarterbacks. Aggie quarterback, Lamar Raynard entered the game 26-0 as a starter. While former Clemson Tiger, Zerrick Cooper, made his first collegiate start at quarterback for the Jacksonville State Gamecocks.
In reality, both defenses made it tough for both quarterbacks the entire night. Raynard and the Aggies struck first with a first quarter touchdown pass to Zach Leslie. By halftime the Aggies led 7-3. In the first half, the Aggie defense held the Gamecocks to 91 total yards. In fact, at the half the Gamecocks had more penalty yards than offensive yards.
The Gamecock offense came alive in the third quarter. Momentum began to shift as Zerrick Cooper finally settled down and finished a drive with a 49 yard touchdown pass. This touchdown gave the Gamecocks their first and final lead of the game.
Just 16 seconds later, Malik Wilson immediately responded with a 98 yard kickoff return for an Aggie touchdown.
Just like that momentum swung back in the Aggies favor; but the Gamecocks would not go down without a fight. Zerrick Cooper marched the Gamecocks down the field and threw another 40 yard touchdown pass. This touchdown gave the Gamecocks at 17-14 lead with 4:49 remaining in the third quarter.
Inexplicably, Jacksonville State went for the onside kick after scoring. They weren’t successful. Up to this point, Raynard and the Aggie offense had struggled. Jacksonville State was getting a ton of pressure on the quarterback and playing decent run defense. Raynard showed why he was 26-0 as a starter on the next drive. He capitalized on the short field and found his favorite target, Elijah Bell in the end-zone for a 4-yard touchdown. The touchdown was Bell’s 100th career reception and gave the Aggies 20-17 lead.
Cooper and the Gamecocks had one final drive in them and had a chance to win the game on the Aggies 18 yard line with 26 seconds in the fourth quarter. That was until linebacker, Antoine Wilder, capped off his solid Aggies debut by swooping in to recover Zerrick Cooper’s fumble. That was the second turnover Wilder recovered in the game.
The Aggies regained possession and held on for a 20-17 victory over the Gamecocks. This was the Aggies 13th straight win.