North Carolina Central overcame pesky, dangerous Norfolk State to open MEAC play last Saturday with a 34-31 road win.
Kudos to coach Jerry Mack for keeping his team focused on the Spartans and not this Saturday’s game at Bethune-Cookman, which should be a barn-burner.
The Eagles have a score to settle against the Wildcats for last season’s 28-26 loss that kept them from winning the conference title outright and cost them a trip to the inaugural Air Force Celebration Bowl.
The Eagles led 26-7 in the second half in last year’s B-C game, but allowed the Wildcats to score 21 unanswered points. NCCU still had a chance to win with an 18-yard field-goal try with 32 seconds left, but Bethune blocked the attempt.
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The loss ended up creating a three-way tie for the MEAC crown. N.C. A&T won the tiebreaker and played in the televised Celebration Bowl at the Georgia Dome.
“At the end of the day, the Bethune game, we were up, so us not finishing that game was our fault,” NCCU redshirt senior quarterback Malcolm Bell said earlier this year. “We didn’t go to the Celebration Bowl because of us, so it’s our fault. People don’t want to lose to us, so we have to finish every game.”
After a 0-2 start against FBS powers Western Michigan and Duke, the Eagles have won two straight games.
A 65-7 win over Div. II St. Augustine’s was no surprise, however Norfolk State was a much tougher opponent. Bell, a native of Richmond, Va., was playing in his home state for the first time, and got to show off for family and friends.
He threw for 196 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for 77 yards and another score, giving him 1,053 yards rushing and 4,658 yards passing for his career. He is now third on the program’s all-time career total list with 5,711 yards.
“Malcolm Bell is a special player, and we expect great things from him,” Mack said. “He is what drives this team and how successful this team will be.”
Leverett, a redshirt-freshman from Concord, was named the MEAC Offensive Lineman of the Week after the Eagles rolled up 401 yards of total offense, including 205 rushing. NCCU coaches gave Leverett a grade of 90 percent on his blocking, including six pancake blocks and zero sacks allowed of Bell.
McLaren, a redshirt-senior from Miami, was named the MEAC Specialist of the Week. He accounted 10 of NCCU’s 34 points in the win at Norfolk. He connected on his two field goal attempts, from 25 and 29 yards, and succeeded on all four PAT extra-point kicks.
Saturday, the Eagles will meet a desperate Bethune team that has yet to win a game. The Wildcats have either won the MEAC title outright or been co-champions for the past four seasons.
N.C. A&T, which was picked to win the conference, had a bye week and will open its conference season Thursday against Hampton in an ESPNU game.
Coach Rod Broadway’s team needed the extra week after a bruising loss to FBS Tulsa that cost him three players for the season. The Aggies were coming off a major upset win over Kent State – the first FBS win in program history.
Now, they are paying for it.
“If I had to do it all over again, I probably wouldn’t schedule two FBS teams back to back,” Broadway said about the injuries.
NCCU basketball coach LeVelle Moton will host his third annual Single Mother’s Salute on Sunday, 6 p.m., at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel in Durham.
Moton’s foundation, Velle Cares, honors single mothers across the Triangle with the red carpet treatment. For tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (919) 530-6012.
NCCU at Bethune-Cookman
• Game time: 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1
• At Municipal Stadium, Daytona Beach, Fla.
• N.C. Central (2-2 overall, 1-0 MEAC)
• Bethune-Cookman (0-3 overall, 0-1 MEAC)
• Bethune-Cookman leads the series 6-1, including six straight victories.
• NCCU has not beaten Bethune-Cookman since the first meeting in the series on Sept. 24, 1994.