by Donal Ware
Hail Mary (pass).
It is defined in football as a very long forward pass, made in desperation with only a small chance of success. Bethune-Cookman was able to execute said Hail Mary Saturday as Larry Brihm’s 48-yard heave found Keavon Mitchell in the end zone with no time on the clock as the Wildcats walked off the field with a 13-10 victory over defending MEAC champ North Carolina Central in Durham.
The Eagles had just gone ahead 10-7 on a Chauncey Caldwell to Xavier McCoy four-yard touchdown pass and catch with :16 remaining. But something happened; something bad that the Eagles are all too familiar with; something that cost them 15 yards on the kickoff. They received a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call for excessive celebration. Remember when a similar incident happened last year in the Celebration Bowl and it essentially cost the Eagles the opportunity to tie the game against Grambling and they lost 10-9?
Where that penalty possible cost them the game, Saturday’s penalty cost the Eagles the right to defend their MEAC crown and a possible bid to the Celebration Bowl. It also tarnished next week’s Aggie-Eagle rivalry game, the game that should have determined the MEAC championship.
Next Saturday’s game in Greensboro was to be a rematch of last year’s game, which the Eagles won 42-21 in Durham. As a matter of fact NCCU has owned the Aggies, winning the last three years and either creating a tie or winning the conference championship outright.
Meanwhile for North Carolina A&T, the Aggies’ 36-17 victory over Savannah State secured the Aggies at least a share of the MEAC title. They can win the title outright and remain undefeated on the season by defeating NCCU. They could also win the title outright if Howard loses next week to Hampton, whether the Aggies beat the Eagles or not.
Even though the game is tarnished a bit, it’s the Aggies and the Eagles and when the two teams get together, a battle will ensue, records and championship stakes aside. For A&T, they don’t want to share the title this year. Head coach Rod Broadway talks about this being a “special” season. Even if A&T loses and Howard wins, both the Aggies and the Bison would share the title and A&T would almost be assured the right to play in the Celebration Bowl by virtue of their higher Sagarin Rating. The Aggies are tired of using the backdoor to get to the next level when it comes to NCCU. And that is exactly what happened two years ago, when NCCU defeated A&T, to create the tie (along with ironically Bethune-Cookman) for the championship.
For the Eagles, while the loss hurts now, they want to go to Aggie Stadium and end the season on a good note. They want to be the ones that said they gave the Aggies their only loss (to this point). While there will be no defending of the MEAC championship or Celebration Bowl, the Eagles want to win the Aggie-Eagle rivalry game, which in-of-itself can be there championship.
Donal Ware hosts the national sports talk show FROM THE PRESS BOX TO PRESS ROW w/ Donal Ware which can be heard on radio stations across the country and on SiriusXM. This is the first in a series of posts highlighting the Aggie-Eagle rivalry. BOXTOROW has you covered with the Aggie Eagle rivalry. Click here for past articles.