Game one is in the history books. After a slow start, the Herd did what it was supposed to do; easily handling a “spirited” and well coached Drake team. We played over 80 players with 20 seeing the field for the first time as Bison.
The North Carolina A&T Aggies are ranked 50 teams better than Drake in Sagarin, so the talent level goes up quite a bit as to last Saturday’s game. This is a reschedule of the Covid game in the fall of 2020. Back then the Aggies were coming off winning three of four HBCU Celebration Bowls. They also had three straight victories over bad FBS teams (2016-18). They didn’t play ball in the 2020 spring season. They jumped out of the MEAC last fall into the Big South Conference going 3-4 in league and 5-6 overall. Next fall they are joining the CAA.
What can we expect this year? I watched their game with North Carolina Central last week. The Aggies were 17 point favorites going into the contest but came out with a 15 point loss, 28-13. Even though the Aggies shut down Central’s run game (held them to 69 yards & 2.1 YPC), they allowed two long drives covering 65 & 62 yards and eating up 8:14 & 7:13 of the clock in the first half. Each drive took 12 plays and ended in TD’s.
The Aggies didn’t run the ball effectively either gaining 82 yards for the game. It was punch, counter punch thru the first 28 minutes of the first half; each trading TD’s then A&T answering Central’s TD with a FG. With 1:31 left till half Central blocked a punt on A&T’s 13 yard line. Five plays later they score a TD to go ahead 21-10. With 16 seconds left, you think the half is over. No, Central squib kicks it and A&T gets it out to the 39 yard line. A 9 yard pass get’s it to A&T’s 49 yard line with 4 seconds left. Then Central gets 2-15 yard penalties on the same play with NO TIME ON THE CLOCK to move it to their 32 yard line. There A&T hits a 49 yard FG to make it 21-13.
Midway thru the 3rd quarter Central mounted a 4 minute, 70 yard drive to go ahead 28-13. There was nothing of note the rest of the game.
On offense, the Aggies will have to run the ball much better against Code Green. The OL is big and you would think athletic enough to get some good push, but didn’t versus NC Central. Top RB had speed, but wasn’t given any creases (7 carries for 20 yards, 2.9 YPC). He did nick Central for 7 receptions for 55 yards. Code Green will need 100% improvement on wheel routes and zone soft spots versus A&T.
The Aggies run game was from their R-fr QB from Minneapolis, Zachary Yeager. He had 6 carries for 59 yards, with the bulk of those on a scramble for 33 yards. They didn’t run any QB design runs, but they might add it for the Herd. Yeager beat out R-jr Jalen Fowler (last year’s starter) and he was a run threat. If Yeager struggles against Code Green, you might see a QB change.
Yeager has three big WR to throw at (two 6’3”’s and a 6”4”). He was inconsistent against Central, totaling 23-48 (47.9%), for 275 yards and 1 TD. This was a poor QB efficiency rating (the gold star of QB analysis for Bison QB’s) at 98.8. He was mobile enough not to be sacked, but did throw an INT. First time, young QB’s have not fared well at the Dome.
How did the Aggies look on defense? Anytime you hold an opponent to under 300 yards total offense (Central only got 269) and under 100 yards rushing (Central tallied 69), you should win. Central was efficient in scoring on a 62, 65 and 70 yard drives and finishing off the short field blocked punt. A key contributor to this efficiency was the Aggies 9 penalties for 95 yards and Central’s QB hitting 20 of 32 passes. Other than the above mentioned drives, Central did nothing the whole game on offense.
The Rams will have to take it up a notch in the trenches. The DL is bigger, faster stronger than Drake. They got to Central for three sacks. I think A&T’s strategy is going to be to put eight in the box to stop the run. They also will want us to go side line to side line. Their LB’s are fast and #10 is a stud! Look for Cam to open up the play action pass portfolio this week.
How do I see this game progressing? The Aggies are going to come out breathing fire. Code Green is going to need to quench this fire sooner rather than later. Sagarin has the Herd a 29 point favorite. If the Herd plays clean and fast we should hit that. Go Bison!