Football set for Big South opener at North Carolina A&T

RMU+football+links+arms+after+their+win+over+Howard.

Photo by Ethan Morrison

RMU football links arms after their win over Howard.

By Michael Deemer, Contributor

Last Saturday, the football team concluded their non-conference schedule with a big 22-16 win against Howard. Now, the team will travel to Greensboro, North Carolina to take on North Carolina A&T for their Big South opener.

This is the first time the two programs have faced each other but this is not head coach Bernard Clark’s first rodeo against the Aggies.

MEET THE AGGIES

“[They’re a] great football team. They’re a hard-nosed football team,” Clark said during media availability ahead of the game. “[Head coach Sam Washington] was a cornerback who came from Mississippi Valley State, the same school where Jerry Rice came from, and he’s a hard-nosed coach.”

In 2009 and 2012-2013, Clark was the defensive coordinator at Hampton University, so he’s familiar with not just the program of NC A&T, but the atmosphere of an HBCU crowd. Coach Clark spoke on how to prepare his players for an environment at Truist Stadium.

“The atmosphere is going to be different, there’s no doubt about that. All the HBCUs that we have played here at Robert Morris,” he said. “I’ll let the guys know it’s gonna be a little bit crazier, a little more fun going on so they don’t get distracted by what’s going on in the stands.”

THE NEC vs BIG SOUTH

After a COVID-shortened spring season, the Colonials finished season 0-3 in their inaugural season of Big South. This season, Bernard Clark and company look to try to forget last spring and start the season fresh Saturday. Clark, despite the short season, noticed one key difference between the Big South and the NEC.

“Speed,” Clark joked. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there wasn’t speed in the NEC, but I mean overall team speed. There is a lot of that in the Big South than in the NEC. You had a few players here and there that can outrun you, but you now have a whole defensive line on North Carolina A&T that can outrun a lot of people. You watch these guys get off the ball, they’re phenomenal. They get their butts in the air, get their hand in the ground and try to fire off the ball.”

“RUN, COLONIALS, RUN!”

The Colonials finished the game with a total of 181 yards. Running back Alijah Jackson made his first touches of 2021 on Saturday, and immediately became a difference-maker leading the way with 107 yards rushing on 29 attempts from scrimmage. Coach Clark spoke to the media and shared the importance of establishing the run game.

“We’re trying to make sure our running backs are touching the ball on the regular basis, trying to get the yards we need to establish the run because the more you establish the run, it’s going to open up for guys like [D’Andre Hicks], it’s going to open up for guys like Chris [Charles], and Demonte [Davis] and all those receivers, and Moss [Saccomanno], the tight end, it’s gonna open up for those guys because we established the run.”

It’s not going to come easy though. As Coach Clark mentioned before, the Aggie defensive line is hard to run against. NC A&T allowed only 52 yards in their win against North Carolina Central. The Aggie defense has allowed less than four yards per play in all three games they’ve played in 2021.

Since the start of Sam Washington‘s tenure in 2018, only one of those seasons had his rushing defense in the top-20. Coach Clark talked about how they can find a weakness in the NC A&T defense.

“That’s the challenge of our veteran offensive line. Those are the veterans that are going to really lean upfront,” he said. “Those guys up front have to create those holes for AJ and hit them the way he needs to.”

The Colonials look to get a road win for the first time in two years and search for their first Big South victory since joining the conference in 2020. It should be a very close and hard-fought game. If the offensive line holds up strong and finds holes for Alijah Jackson, the Colonials could steal one in Greensboro.