by Mike Potter
PEARSON CAFETERIA/DURHAM—Mose Rison certainly didn't expect his N.C. Central football team to be in this position.
When this season began the Eagles, in their third year competing as a member of NCAA Division I (Championship Subdivision) had high hopes for a winning campaign.
Yes there seemed to be some near-impossible assignments at the top of the schedule, but with a few good bounced the Eagles seemed to have a chance to be 3-3 going into five very winnable games at the end of the schedule.
But it hasn't gone down that way.
NCCU (0-5) suffered its most heartbreaking loss in quite a while on Saturday night, falling 23-17 in overtime at historic archrival North Carolina A&T.
One more loss would guarantee the Eagles a second straight losing season. And if the Eagles were to win at Appalachian State (2-2), ranked No. 10 in the FCS, on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Kidd Brewer Stadium, it would probably be the biggest upset in the country this weekend.
But first they have to get the taste of their painful loss to the Aggies out of their systems.
"Last Saturday was very exciting for the fans, I know that," NCCU's third-year head coach said. "(But) you don't want to know how I was feeling. I was feeling terrible. After watching the film closely, we came out flat. I don't know if it was as a result of the Duke game (a 49-14 loss in the first Bull City Gridiron Classic). I am not quite sure. I do know after five weeks of the season we've had a lot of emotional highs and then a low against Morehead State (in a 13-10 overtime loss on Sept. 19).
"For some reason in that first quarter, defensively (against A&T), we came out and it was like pulling teeth to get them to play. We were really disappointed when we got a chance to go back and watch the tape on Sunday. We were just flat. It was not our best football game, but in the end we had an opportunity to win it. Give A&T a lot of credit. They won the game."
It could be argued that the Eagles are still in the toughest three-week assignment of anyone in college football this season with back-to-back-to-back road games against the best team in their city, an ancient rival and then the best team in the state in their NCAA Division.
But it's just something Rison and his team have to endure. And the Eagles definitely need a miracle on Saturday, facing quarterback Armanti Edwards. Last season Edwards won the Walter Payton Award, the Football Championship Subdivision's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. Edwards even has his own weekly teleconference.
"I watched them on tape and they're no doubt and explosive football team on offense," Rison said. "I asked my staff, 'Tell me a quarterback, Division I (Bowl Subdivision) or I (Championship Subdivision) football that's as good as (Edwards) that does what he does. He's a phenomenal football player. He's explosive and he makes them explosive. They're not complicated, but he is who he is.
We've got to possess the football and score more than we've scored. He's in a world all by himself. The closest thing that I can see to him from a quarterback standpoint even the last couple of years is Pat White, who played at West Virginia and is now in the NFL. He is truly amazing and I can't say enough good things about him. I loved watching the Saturday night highlights when I wasn't playing against him."