Hampton triumphs on homecoming, bests North Carolina A&T 26-24

On Hampton University’s homecoming, the Pirates’ football team survived a tough battle against their lone CAA HBCU rival, the North Carolina A&T Aggies. The final score of 26-24 was a result of a penalty-filled, mistaken-laden fiasco from both teams in all three phases of the game.

After an abysmal couple of weeks, the Pirates finally got healthy enough to compete. Though running back Darran Butts did not play, his backfield counterpart Elijah Burris returned against the Aggies. Hampton’s main playcaller Chris Zellous also made his return after missing last week’s matchup against Delaware.

Hampton head coach Robert Prunty talked about limiting Aggie receiver Taymon Cooke, particularly in bottling his explosive kick returns. The Pirates succeeded, holding Cooke to just one punt return for 24 yards. They actively kicked the ball away from his side.

Taymon Cooke – the punt returner – had a terrible day. Taymon Cooke – the receiver – opened the game with a 46-yard touchdown catch to put the Aggies up 7-0 almost immediately.

Hampton, in their gray homecoming uniforms, tried to respond on their opening possession. They drove the ball downfield, but stalled after Zellous got tackled for loss on a run on third down. They inched forward at 7-3, settling for a 27-yard field goal.

For a majority of the game, North Carolina A&T’s offense looked smooth. Even though the passing game wasn’t great the whole way through, quarterback Kevin “KJ” White had his best game of the season. He looked extremely poised and rarely rushed, hardly ever putting the ball in harm’s way.

The Aggies’ run and short passing game got them down the field on their next drive, but a dropped pass and penalty resulted in a punt.

On Hampton’s first red zone trip, they came away with just three points. Although tight end TK Paisant caught a pass to get into scoring distance, Zellous overthrew a potential touchdown which forced the Pirates to kick the field goal.

The Aggies, now up 7-6, made their first real mistake of the game. A false start on third down put them behind the first down markers, forcing them to throw. White threw a deep ball to let his receiver fight one-on-one with Hampton defensive back Jordan White. The ball careened out of the receiver’s reach and into White’s hands, resulting in the Aggie quarterback’s only interception of the day.

Hampton nearly capitalized on the mistake; a tight end screen broke down field, though the referees called a holding penalty. They got the ball back off a sack from linebacker DeAndre Faulk at the end of the half, and this time, they converted.

Receiver Paul Woods caught a 35-yard bomb to put the Pirates outside the red zone. A holding call almost killed Hampton’s final possession of the half had it not been for Kymari Gray. Gray got a go-ball from Zellous in the red zone, bobbled it, and came down with the touchdown with just five seconds left. The Pirates did not convert the two point conversion attempt, going into the half up 12-7.

Hampton opened up the third quarter with a 35-yard catch and run by tight end Evan King. Unfortunately for the Pirates, King dropped a wide-open potential touchdown. They ran the ball three straight times at the 1-yard line, yet were turned away on each attempt. On fourth-and-goal, Burris was originally given the touchdown, though further review revoked the score.

An Aggie three-and-out gave Hampton the ball back yet again. The Pirates struggled with two back-to-back false starts, but North Carolina A&T bailed them out with a pass interference. Paisant had a 29-yard catch, followed by a touchdown off a tight end screen to give the Pirates the 19-7 lead.

Amidst the excitement of the score, Hampton’s defense must have fallen asleep. On the very first play of the Aggies possession, White found a wide open running back in Kenji Christian for a 75-yard touchdown.

Then the Aggies must have fallen asleep, because on the ensuing kickoff,  Romon Copeland had 96-yard touchdown return, extending the lead to 26-14.

White got North Carolina A&T back into scoring distance. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, they closed the gap to 26-19 with a field goal.

For the remainder of the game, Hampton decided to play conservatively. They tried to run clock with over 14 minutes left, and as the run game stalled, they were forced to pass. On third down, Zellous threw his only interception – a tipped ball that landed in defensive back David Laney’s hands for a touchdown.

At 26-24 with a bunch of time remaining, Hampton stayed conservative. Despite only being up two points, they continued to run the ball without much success. The Pirates ended up punting with over five minutes left.

Although the Pirates played safe, the defense turned up the aggression. With the Aggies continuing to drive, the Pirates came up with a fumble and recovered it.

Even with the fumble, Hampton needed to convert a few first downs to win. They looked to quarterback Chris Zellous to save the day, and he delivered. With two quarterback runs, Zellous iced the game and walked away with the victory.

As previously mentioned, Aggie quarterback Kevin White had the best game of his young career. The freshman went 10-15 for 211 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Ger-Cari Caldwell was White’s favorite target, racking up five receptions for 54 yards. Taymon Cooke cooled off after his opening touchdown, finishing with just three catches for 77 yards. Kenji Christian led the way on the ground with 19 carries for 81 yards.

The Pirates couldn’t wait to get Zellous and Burris back. Zellous threw for 198 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception on 11-19 passing. He also led all rushers with 89 yards on 12 carries. Burris had 63 yards on his 18 carries. Paul Woods led the Hampton receivers with two catches for 51 yards.

North Carolina A&T returns home next week, searching for their second victory of the year against Towson University.

Hampton travels up north to face the University of Maine Black Bears. The Pirates are looking to go .500 (3-3) in the CAA to vault themselves towards the top of the conference.


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