GREENSBORO — The scoreboard confirmed N.C. A&T had lost to a bad 1-8 team, and the door was open for Bethune-Cookman.
And the Wildcats promptly lost to an even worse 1-8 team.
Now here we are, still in a tie for first place, as No. 25 A&T (4-2 MEAC, 6-3) hosts Bethune-Cookman (4-2, 6-3) at BB&T Stadium at 1 p.m. Saturday.
The winner still has a path to a league title and a Celebration Bowl berth. The loser becomes a postseason long shot at best.
Bethune comes in reeling after back-to-back losses, but the Wildcats are among the fastest teams in the league, one of the few that can run step-for-step with A&T.
“We have to get the Wildcats right,” Bethune coach Terry Sims said. “We have to get back to polishing what we do.”
That starts on offense with talented senior quarterback Akevious Williams, who leads the Wildcats in rushing and passing.
Williams ranks fourth in the MEAC with a team-high 505 rushing yards, and he’s the league’s sixth-leading passer, averaging 154.0 yards per game.
But he has struggled in the last two losses. He was sacked six times and completed just 12-of-27 passes with two interceptions against South Carolina State. He was sacked twice and threw another interception in a listless 16-13 loss at woeful Delaware State last week.
“We showed up, and we were ready to play in a couple phases, but not everybody was ready,” Sims said. “And for what reason, I still can’t put my finger on it. We’re moving guys around and trying to fix this thing now. Because we just did not produce. We did not execute like we’re supposed to do offensively. We didn’t do what we need to do up front, and we have to play better at the quarterback position.”
Bethune has three sophomore quarterbacks on its roster, led by Marcus Riley, a transfer from Louisville.
“We’re giving some guys more reps, but Akevious is our quarterback,” Sims said. “He’s the guy we’ve been following all year. He’s very capable of doing the job. He just has to play better, and he’ll be the first person to tell you that.”
And it’s Williams and wide receiver Jimmie Robinson that concern A&T coach Sam Washington. Robinson has four touchdown catches, and he has scored on a 92-yard kickoff return.
“Akevious Williams is dynamic. He can beat you with his legs and his arm,” Washington said. “It’s going to be very important that we contain him, and not allow him to run up and down the field or extend plays with scrambling. He’s an excellent scrambler. He keeps his eyes down the field, and he throws strikes.
“And Mister Jimmie is another one. No. 1 is very athletic and fast. He’s a threat, and you have to know where he is at all times.”
On defense, senior linebacker Marquis Hendrix is a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award. He averages 8.8 tackles per game, fourth in the MEAC, and has two sacks.
Bottom line: The Wildcats are wounded, but a very dangerous team that’s still in contention, just as expected.
“This conference has been like this for a while,” Sims said. “It always comes down to the last few weeks. ... I exepected it to be some kind of battle at the end.”