DURHAM — The stage is set, and North Carolina Central believes it is ready for prime-time.
In only its second year as a Division I-AA program, Central is eager to show an ESPNU national audience how much the program has improved when it hosts Hampton at 7:30 Thursday night.
Its awesome, coach Henry Frazier III said. Were talking about developing our brand as an FCS program. What better opportunity is there than for over [73 million] households to have a chance to see what were doing as a program here at North Carolina Central?
The Eagles (4-2 overall, 3-0 MEAC) already doubled their win total from last season and are tied with Bethune-Cookman atop the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference standings.
The Eagles will try to end an eight-game losing streak against Hampton (1-4, 1-2) and extend their current three-game winning streak before next weeks showdown at B-C.
[The team] just has to follow my lead, he said. Im going to be consistent. Just take it one play, one quarter and one game at a time. I think if we bring the hammer for 60 minutes, good things will happen for us.
The Eagles backfield is responsible for many of the happy moments. Quarterback Jordan Reid is a threat as a passer with a 128.85 efficiency rating and has the ability to keep a play alive with his legs.
But with Reid hampered with injuries and starting under short rest this week, Central likely will rely more on running back Arthur Goforth against Hampton. Goforth leads the Eagles with 103.92 total yards per game.
Goforth said the Eagles are looking forward to playing on national television.
I feel like we thrive under pressure, Goforth, a senior, said. Were trying to win a championship, so each game is important. This is just another game we have to win to get what were working toward.
Linebacker Ty Brown leads a defense that has bounced back from early losses to Elon and Duke.
Last week Morgan State jumped to a 17-7 lead, but Centrals defense held the Bears to a field goal the rest of the way and escaped with a 24-20 road win.
Brown, who had just six tackles through the first four games, had 15 in the past two weeks 4.5 of which were for a loss against South Carolina State and Morgan State. Brown was named the MEAC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against Morgan State.
My coaches are letting me do what I do best by coming out and telling me not to get too big-headed, Brown said. Winning the award was all because of my teammates doing their job and allowing me to make plays.
The Eagles are close enough now to see the finish line but know they cant afford to stumble Thursday night.
Every game is important from here on out, Goforth said. Weve been approaching every game as if its one of the most important games weve played.