2020 season: Opted out of season due to COVID-19 pandemic (9-3, 6-2 in the MEAC in 2019)
Head coach: Sam Washington (4th season)
For a team that hasn’t played a game since December 2019 due to the cancellation of their 2020 season because of COVID-19, it’s been an eventful past year. North Carolina A&T has been a powerhouse in the MEAC since it was a founding member in 1971, but, for the first time in 50 years, the Aggies will have a different conference patch on their jersey.
All of North Carolina A&T’s athletic teams left the MEAC July 1 and joined the Big South. Despite the change, the Big South’s head coaches and media selected the Aggies to finish third in the conference, and they had three players tabbed to preseason lists in running back Jah-Maine Martin, defensive tackle Jermaine McDaniel and linebacker Kyin Howard.
The Aggies have not had a losing season since 2011, and the last time they did take the football field, they won a shootout to cap off the 2019 season with a bowl victory.
Leading the charge this season is Martin, who Duke fans will not-so-fondly remember from the Blue Devils’ 2019 matchup with the Aggies where he busted off a 66-yard touchdown run. Martin ran all over his opponents two seasons ago and ended the year averaging a ridiculous 7.7 yards per carry. Duke’s matchup with North Carolina A&T comes in the second week of the season, so any early-season tackling issues need to be polished up before Martin steps foot in Wallace Wade Stadium.
The Aggies won’t have the luxury of also having a seasoned starter to lean on at quarterback. Heading into summer camp, redshirt junior Jalen Fowler was working as QB1, but head coach Sam Washington made it clear that redshirt junior Kingsley Ifedi will have a shot at winning the job. Fast forward to days before the opening game, and Fowler won the starting job. Despite this being Fowler’s fourth year of college football, he’s not exactly a veteran. He’s only seen time in eight games and will likely start the season off with the usual hiccups that come with a first-year starting quarterback.
On the defensive side, McDaniel and Howard will play their second game against Duke as well, and Howard flew around the field in the first matchup with 11 tackles and a forced fumble. He recorded 79 tackles in the 2019 season to lead the team and knows how to use his hands to shed blockers and get to the ball carrier.
The Aggies open up against Furman and likely have Duke circled on their calendar with the Blue Devils being their only Power Five opponent. When the two teams clash, it will only be the second game North Carolina A&T has played in over 600 days, so Duke will have to be prepared for an enthusiastic, energetic football team come Sept. 10.
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Jake Piazza is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.