A&T rallies helps extend record-tying start to 8-0

Elon and Western Carolina also earned victories, as two of the state's three ranked FCS teams were winners this weekend

Deion Jones runs with his interception that helped NC A&T rally for a 27-24 victory against Bethune-Cookman on Saturday (Kevin L. Dorsey/NC A&T Sports Information)

NC A&T equaled a school record by starting a season with its eighth straight win Saturday, rallying in the fourth quarter for a 24-20 victory against MEAC rival Bethune-Cookman.

The 11th-ranked Bulldogs scored the game’s final 10 points, taking the lead on a 4-yard pass from Lamar Raynard to Trey Scott with 8:26 left, to match the accomplishment of their 1927 team and become the first MEAC team since 1971 to get off to an 8-0 start.

A&T was one of three ranked FCS teams from North Carolina that won on Saturday.

Fourteenth-ranked Elon also came from behind late to beat Rhode Island 35-34 and run its win streak to six while No. 19 Western Carolina rolled to a 26-7 win against VMI. NC Central, which began the week at No. 25, will likely drop out of the rankings after a 28-21 home loss to Norfolk State.

A&T trailed 20-14 late in the third quarter when a fortunate bounce of the ball helped change the momentum.

Freshman Mac McCain, who already has three pick sixes this season, deflected a BCU pass high into the air where teammate Jeremy Taylor and receiver Anthony Cruz both managed to get their hands on the ball. It ended up in the hands of defensive back Deion Jones, who gave the Bulldogs possession near midfield.

Ten plays later, Noel Ruiz hit a 30-yard field goal began the comeback that ended with Raynard’s scoring pass to Scott.

“I don’t care what level you’re on, it is hard to win eight in a row,” A&T coach Rod Broadway told ncataggies.com. “Winning is hard enough, but when you’re carrying a little extra weight with it makes it a little bit harder. We don’t need to be focused on anything but the next game.”

No. 14 Elon 35, Rhode Island 34: Like A&T, the Phoenix also entered the fourth quarter facing a deficit. Running back De’Sean McNair helped change that by gaining 21 yards on a fourth-and-2 play from the Rams 37. McNair eventually scored on a 1-yard run with 12:08 remaining. Owen Johnson’s extra point put Elon ahead for the last of eight lead changes in the game.

McNair finished with a career-high 126 yards and two touchdowns while quarterback Davis Cheek threw for 331 yards and three scores. Corey Joyner had eight catches for 185 yards and a touchdown for the Phoenix, which earned the 500th win in its program’s history.

The homecoming victory improved Elon to 6-1 (4-0 CAA), but it had to work much harder than expected against 1-6 Rhode Island, which threatened to win the game late before an interception by Warren Messer helped the Phoenix run out the clock and hold on.

No. 19 WCU 26, VMI 7: The Catamounts (6-2, 4-1 Southern Conference) notched their 15th straight victory in their series with the Keydets by getting a school record-tying four field goals from Joshua Gibson and 195 passing yards from quarterback Tyrie Adams.

The victory was also WCU’s third on the road this season, the first time they’ve won that many away from home since 2002.

Adams hit on 20 of 33 passes, including a 28-yard touchdown to Terryon Robinson in the second quarter to give the Catamounts a lead they would not relinquish. Gibson connected on field goals of 22, 40, 38 and 43 yards while running back Donnavan Spencer added his team’s final touchdown.

Norfolk State 28, No. 25 NCCU 21: The Eagles outgained the Spartans 501-278 and won the time of possession battle by more than 11 minutes, but hurt themselves by committing 15 penalties and four turnovers.

The mistakes helped Norfolk State build a 21-0 lead from which Central couldn’t recover while seeing its 18-game MEAC winning streak come to an unexpected halt.

The defending conference champions got back to within a touchdown twice in the second half, the last on a 23-yard pass from Naiil Ramadan to Josh McCoy. But two late interceptions ended whatever chance the Eagles (5-2, 3-1) had of staging a game-saving rally.