Oliver Dawson Stadium, Orangeburg, S.C.
Why the Aggies won
Fifth-year quarterback Kylil Carter passed for 267 yards and a touchdown, and he ran for a team-high 73 yards as A&T scratched out a victory in this matchup of MEAC front-runners. The Aggies defense held South Carolina State to 50 rushing yards and 6-of-14 on third-down conversions.
The big play
South Carolina State had cut the lead to 22-20 with a TD and field goal in a span of 3:06 early in the fourth quarter, and the Bulldogs had momentum. And then A&T cornerback Amir McNeill snatched the momentum back. Bulldogs freshman quarterback Corey Fields overthrew a receiver in the middle of the field, and McNeill caught the ball inside the 10-yard line.
What it means
The Aggies control their own destiny. With three games remaining, A&T and idle Bethune-Cookman are tied atop the MEAC standings at 4-1. (Ignore unbeaten Florida A&M, which is on NCAA probation, ineligible for a league title and banned from the postseason). A&T plays at Morgan State (1-5 MEAC, 1-8 overall) next week, then closes with back-to-back home games against Bethune (4-1, 6-2) and N.C. Central (3-2, 4-5). If the Aggies win out, they head back to the Celebration Bowl.
A&T: QB Kylil Carter 21-for-38 passing, 267 yards, 1 TD, no interceptions, 19 carries for 73 yards; RB Jah-Maine Martin 16 carries for 63 yards, 1 TD; WR Elijah Bell 11 catches for 107 yards; WR Korey Banks 3 catches for 65 yards, 1 TD; LB Kyin Howard 8 tackles, 1 for loss.
S.C. State: QB Corey Fields 14-for-30 passing, 284 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception; RB Labron Morris 9 carries for 36 yards, 1 TD; WR De’Montrez Burroughs 8 catches for 168 yards, 1 TD; LB Chad Gilchrist 8 tackles, 2 for losses.
• A&T junior Noel Ruiz kicked two 23-yard field goals in the third quarter to set an A&T school record for most in a single season. Ruiz is 16-for-19 this year. Cody Jones and Yonnick Matthews had shared the record with 15 each.
• Martin averaged just 3.9 yards per carry and was held in check by S.C. State’s defense, which ranks No. 10 among the nation’s 124 FCS teams in rushing defense. But the junior running back gained enough yards to become A&T’s ninth 1,000-yard rusher in the last 10 years. He has 1,014 yards and counting.
• A&T linebacker Kyin Howard, a redshirt sophomore from Eastern Guilford, scored the Aggies’ first points when he tackled quarterback Tyrece Nick in the end zone for a safety.
• The Aggies finished with six tackles behind the line of scrimmage for 36 yards of losses, including four sacks.
• A&T ran just 12 plays for 67 yards in the first quarter. The Aggies finished with 79 plays for 417 yards.
•Bell’s last catch of the game might have been his biggest, an 11-yard grab on a crossing route on a third-and-5. The first down allowed A&T to kill the clock and seal the win.
What they're saying
“I told y’all it was going to be one of those great games. I’m proud of my team. They showed a lot of character. We didn’t play as clean as I would’ve liked, but we played well enough to win.” — Sam Washington, A&T head coach
“It’s a great feeling to win here. And to be able to win (all five) games against them since I’ve been here. My guys did a great job today, helping me to keep that streak going.” — Kylil Carter, A&T quarterback, who came off the bench and led a fourth-quarter comeback in his first Aggies appearance as a true freshman in 2015.
A&T: 4-1 MEAC, 6-2 overall.
S.C. State: 3-2 MEAC, 5-3 overall.
A&T: at Morgan State, 1 p.m. Saturday.
S.C. State: Howard, 1:30 p.m. Saturday.