North Carolina A&T vs. Florida A&M (copy)

N.C. A&T senior quarterback Lamar Raynard played hurt and struggled in the Aggies' first four games this season. In his six starts since then, Raynard has completed 64.6 percent of his passes, raising his season number to 56.3 percent. He has thrown 18 touchdown passes and just five interceptions.

GREENSBORO — The Aggies and Braves traveled to Atlanta today, settling in ahead of the Celebration Bowl on Saturday.

No. 11 N.C. A&T (9-2) will play Alcorn State (8-3) at noon Saturday in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The fourth annual game kicks off college football’s bowl season, a matchup between the MEAC and SWAC champions that serves as the black college national championship.

“We’re playing a very worthy opponent,” A&T coach Sam Washington said. “Alcorn is a solid football team. They do the little things well. They run the football, and teams that have success running the football generally control the clock. It’s going to be very interesting to see how it unfolds. They run the ball and we like stopping the run. So let’s put the ball down and play.”

A look at the NCAA statistics for the nation’s 124 FCS programs shows two similar teams:

Defense

Total defense — No. 2 A&T allows an average of 254.3 yards per game. No. 5 Alcorn State allows 288.7. But A&T has surrendered just 15 touchdowns, compared to 31 TDs allowed by the Braves. Edge: A&T.

Rushing defense — No. 2 A&T allows just 72.6 yards per game and has given up an FCS-low four rushing TDs. No. 5 Alcorn checks in at 95.7 yards but has given up 13 TDs. Edge: A&T.

Scoring defense — No. 5 A&T allows 13.5 points per game; No. 18 Alcorn 21.3 ppg. Edge: A&T.

Third-down defense — No. 1 A&T has stopped opponents from converting on third-down 74.4 percent of the time; No. 22 Alcorn gets off the field 68 percent of the time. Edge: A&T.

Tackles for loss — No. 1 Alcorn has made 111 stops behind the line of scrimmage, including an FCS-high 51 sacks. That’s 30 more tackles for loss and 27 more sacks than A&T. (A&T has surrendered just 13 sacks in 11 games). Edge: Alcorn State.

Offense

Rushing offense — No. 8 Alcorn State averages 282.3 yards per game and has scored 30 rushing TDs; No. 43 A&T averages 187.3 yards and has 20 TDs. Edge: Alcorn State.

Passing offense — No. 82 Alcorn State averages 192.9 yards per game, and No. 88 A&T isn’t far behind at 182.2. Edge: Even.

Pass completions — No. 10 Alcorn State is led by Noah Johnson’s 64.1 completion percentage. A&T ranks No. 69, but that’s misleading. Senior Lamar Raynard checks in with a 56.3 completion percentage, but he played hurt the first month of the season. In his last six starts, Raynard has completed 64.6 percent of his throws. Edge: Even.

Miscellaneous

Blocked kicks — No. 24 A&T 6, No. 24 Alcorn 4.

Blocked punts — No. 2 A&T 5, No. 9 Alcorn 3.

Kickoff returns — No. 2 A&T 29.6-yard average, 3 TDs; No. 116 Alcorn 16.6 yards, no TDs.

Penalties — No. 114 A&T 99, No. 120 Alcorn 109.

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Contact Jeff Mills at (336) 373-7024, and follow @JeffMillsNR on Twitter.

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