by Mike Potter
And Henry Frazier’s club gets a showcase on national TV — read ESPNU, where every Division I team in the Triangle will appear this week — tonight.
NCCU (4-2, 3-0), which is tied atop the MEAC and ranked as high as No. 8 in Black College polls, will take on a traditionally powerful Hampton team that is struggling this season at 1-4 (1-2, MEAC).
It’s the first game at O’Kelly-Riddick for the Eagles since their season-opening 54-31 win over Fayetteville State.
Hampton has won eight straight in the series, with the last NCCU win in 1983 when both teams were in the CIAA.
The Eagles get a huge night from their defense, especially in a three-touchdown third quarter as they blast the Pirates 37-20.
And the Pirates are driving when the Eagles strike some lightning. Tazmon Foster steps in front of a Travis Champion pass at the NCCU 20, shrugging off a couple of tackle attempts and sprinting down the left sidelines to pay dirt.
Oleg Parent’s kick is awry, and the Eagles lead 6-3 with 13:01 left in the half.
NCCU gets another big defensive play on the Pirates’ ensuing possession, when Hampton loses 46 yards on a fumble that most everybody on the field seems to touch and the Eagles’ Ryan Smith recovers at the 17. Six plays later Andre Clarke goes in from a yard out and Parent’s kick makes it 13-3 at 7:11.
And the Pirates cough it up again as Andre Griffin fumbles at his own 30 and Foster recovers. Reid finds Geo Irvine in the end zone on the next play and Parent’s try makes it 20-3 at 6:55.
Parent chips in a 20-yard field goal with 7:26 left in the third to make it 23-3.
Hampton cuts it to 23-10 at 2:06 on Jeremiah Schwartz’ one-yard plunge and Durham’s boot.
And then things get shaky for the Eagles. Hampton gets a safety with 10:02 left in the game, and then with 9:21 left Schwartz breaks down the left sideline for a 38-yard touchdown and Jayl Williamson added the conversion run to make it 23-20.
But Arthur Goforth returns the ensuing kickoff 90 yards down the left sideline to the end zone, with Parent’s boot making it 30-20 with 9:09 to go.
The Eagles put it away with 4:37 remaining, as Reid hits Gary Douglas with a 20-yard scoring pass and Parent adds the boot.
Reid completes 11 of 22 passes for 193 yards and two TDs for the Eagles, with Irvine catching four for 99 yards and the TD.
Schwartz carries 20 times for 129 yards and the two TDs. Hampton QBs Champion and Williamson each completed 11 of 16 passes with one interception, Champion for 112 yards and Williamson 103.
They said it …
Frazier: “With the home crowd after five straight road games, this was awesome! I think the key was playing for 60 minutes and bringing the hammer, and they’re starting to believe. This is a good football team, and they’re doing what the coaches ask. It’s huge to get a win on national TV. We’re trying to develop our brand in the FCS, and I think we’re doing a pretty good job of it.”
Goforth: “I just trusted my blockers and found a crease and hit it (on the kickoff return). We’ve been making plays as a team, and as a unit we’ve been able to make plays on top of plays and that’s how we’ve been successful.”
Foster: “I saw the running back going to the flat (on the interception return) and I just jumped the route. That second quarter was the best defense we’ve played. This feels good, getting to play at home and winning after all those long road trips.”
What does it all mean?
That NCCU has its first four-game winning streak since 2007, and is in first place in the MEAC.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Foster’s interception return.
NCCU: Won 4.
Hampton: Lost 2.
Hampton leads 17-6.
Hampton vs. Savannah State, Oct. 27, 2 p.m.
NCCU at Bethune-Cookman, Oct. 27, 4 p.m.