We continue our preview of Liberty football’s 2020 season with a week two matchup against the North Carolina A&T Aggies.
The Aggies, who finished the 2019 season 9-3 against a predominantly FCS slate, had over 20 players who were seniors, redshirt seniors, or graduate players in 2019.
Sam Washington will enter his third season as Head Coach for the Aggies with two MEAC titles and two HBCU national championships under his belt. If the Aggies manage to win the MEAC in 2020, it will be Washington’s final MEAC title as North Carolina A&T will join the Big South in 2021.
The Aggies will feature a new starting quarterback in Jalen Howard. Howard played sparingly in 2019 and served as the Aggie backup. He completed 13 of 25 passes for 157 yards and one touchdown in seven appearances in 2019.
Jah-Maine Martin will start at running back. Martin, a rising redshirt senior, rushed 151 times for 1,246 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2019. The undisputed star of A&T’s offense, Martin averaged over eight yards per carry. Expect for the Aggies to lean heavily on Martin in their matchup against the Flames.
Redshirt senior Zachary Leslie, who finished second on the team in receiving last season, will likely emerge as A&T’s top receiving target in 2020; although Martin will remain the focal point of an Aggie offense that average 38 points per game in 2019.
On defense, North Carolina A&T dominated against the run but was average against the pass. The Aggies surrendered 954 rushing yards in 2019, but allowed nearly 2,500 passing yards: good for 52nd in the FCS. The Aggies will replace four defensive line starters in 2020, and the ability of the four new starters will be tested by Liberty’s Malik Willis and Joshua Mack.
I expect this game to be a shootout, similar to Liberty’s 2019 game against Maine. The game will be held on commencement weekend, so expect Flames Nation to be in full force when the Aggies come to Lynchburg.
Liberty will handle the FCS Aggies and improve to 1-1 heading into a week three matchup at Western Kentucky.