by Mike Potter
PEARSON CAFETERIA/DURHAM N.C. Central finds itself in exactly the same position it was in a year ago.
The Eagles have a 3-7 record going into Saturday's football season finale at home against Savannah State (2-8).
In 2008 NCCU was looking to win its third game out of its last four on the season, while this time a victory would be its fourth in the last five.
Mose Rison's club has had its ups and downs this season, but three days ago the Eagles had their best victory so far this year when they won 18-10 at long-time rival Winston-Salem State.
Particularly since the Eagles, in their third season of NCAA Division I as they transition up from Division II, will be going into the MEAC next season while WSSU is giving up the quest and going back to the CIAA. The Eagles' other two wins had been very much expected, as they came at home against teams below the Division I level.
"It was a rivalry game, and we finally got a road victory," said Rison (pictured), whose team hadn't won on the opposing team's field since a win at Savannah State in 2007. "We broke the (14-game) streak. We hadn't won a game on the road in two years and got that monkey off our back. It really gives us momentum. If we can carry a two-game winning streak into the off-season, it will be huge for us going into next season.
"I'm disappointed to be 3-7 at this point. I thought with a break here or there we could win at least six games. But we've played a tough schedule (including Duke and Appalachian State and Liberty.) This football program has grown. We are leaps and bounds ahead of where we were a year ago. The level of competition has forced us to escalate the way we coach, how we coach, the way we practice, what we do in the weight room are all factors."
NCCU was able to win on Saturday despite playing without its top defensive player, tackle Teryl White (shoulder), and linebacker Rakeem Vick (ankle).
Both will likely play this week against the Tigers.
"We went into that (WSSU) game starting all freshman defensive linemen - Tommy Wallace, Mark Blakeney and Chas Proctor," Rison explained. "To be able to win and playing with those kids on defense was really pleasing from a coaching standpoint. In a lot of ways we were flawless on defense. We had a lot of guys playing physical. We hit them pretty good; we knocked out the first two quarterbacks and that really hurt them."
Saturday's contest will of course be Senior Day, and the final NCCU football game for wideout Will Scott, fullback Saeed Abdul-Azeez, offensive tackle Gabriel Manns, linebacker Alex Winters and safety Derek Harvey.