GREENSBORO — N.C. A&T finished its regular season No. 1 in total defense among all 124 FCS teams in the country.
The No. 22 Aggies led the MEAC in scoring defense (11th nationally), rushing defense (4th nationally) and sacks (8th nationally), and they were No. 2 in the league in pass defense (26th nationally).
And yet A&T had no defensive players named to the first team when All-MEAC selections were announced this week.
A&T landed four players on the first team, led by All-America left tackle Marcus Pettiford, a senior named the MEAC’s offensive lineman of the year.
Pettiford, a three-time All-MEAC first-team pick, follows Micah Shaw (2018) and Brandon Parker (2017, ’16, ’15) as Aggies who have claimed top lineman honors five years in a row.
Junior running back Jah-Maine Martin, sophomore center Daquari Wilson from Dudley, and junior kicker Noel Ruiz were also first-team picks.
Martin is a strong candidate for the MEAC’s offensive player of the year, which will be announced Dec. 10 in New York at the National Football Foundation awards dinner. He led the MEAC and is fifth in the nation with 1,336 rushing yards. He set a single-season school record with 21 touchdowns (third in the nation) and leads the nation with an average of 7.81 yards per carry.
Ruiz set a single-season school record with 21 field goals, tied for second-most in the nation this year.
Wide receiver Elijah Bell, A&T’s all-time leader in catches, receiving yards and touchdown catches, made the second team along with right tackle Dontae Keys and punter Michael Rivers.
In all, eight of A&T’s staring 11 defenders earned second- or third-team status.
The five second-team picks were All-America cornerback Mac McCain, linebackers Kyin Howard (Eastern Guilford) and Jacob Roberts, and defensive linemen Justin Cates and Jermaine McDaniel. Third-team picks were linebacker Joseph Stuckey, defensive end Devin Harrell and linebacker/safety Antoine Wilder.
Junior left guard De’Jour Simpson was a third-team pick, as four of A&T’s five staring offensive lineman were named all-conference.
South Carolina State freshman quarterback Corey Fields earned rookie of the year honors, and the Bulldogs’ Buddy Pough was named coach of the year.
Florida A&M placed a league-high six players on the first-team, led by senior quarterback Ryan Stanley, another contender for offensive player of the year honors.