Saturday’s matchup between Campbell and NC Central featured two teams trending in different directions. The Eagles were undefeated and looking for their seventh straight victory dating back to last season while the Camels were in off a bye week after having lost two in a row.
That’s why it was somewhat of a surprise when it was Cambell who took it to NC Central. From front to back it was all orange as Hajj-Malik Williams led sustained drive after sustained drive. The Camels got their season back on track in a big way.
Campbell came out of the gates with a head of steam on Saturday against visiting NC Central. Williams and the up tempo offense right down the field with ease. Lamagea McDowell ran into the end zone for a four-yard touchdown. It was the first time the Eagles had trailed all year and it was a sign of the type of day both teams were going to have.
Caleb Dowden tacked on three more for Campbell later in the first but, trailing 10-0, the Eagles special teams stepped up big. Punter Juan Velarde pinned the Camels inside the five-yard line and gave the defense a prime opportunity to make a their first stop which they did.
In the second quarter, however, Campbell again squashed the little momentum that the Eagles had. The aggressive Camels secondary authored the first turnover of the day when Myles Rowser stepped in front of a pass from NC Central quarterback Davius Richard and picked it off.
McDowell would get his second touchdown of the day off the turnover and put the Camels up 17-0 with 11:41 to go until halftime.
The Eagles desperately needed to get something rolling with the game at risk of becoming a blowout. Try as they might, though, they couldn’t find any traction and just minutes later they had to punt again.
On the other side, Williams and running back Bryant Barr were making it look easy against the NC Central defense. Williams capped off another effective drive with a big 17-yard scoring scamper, his third of the year.
Desperation began to set in for the Eagles and at last they came alive. Down 24, Richard answered the call as he orchestrated a 93-yard march from deep in his own territory. He completed five passes on the drive, the last to receiver Devin Smith for a 28-yard touchdown. The two-point try failed but NC Central was on the board.
It hardly seemed to matter to Campbell. Barr got in on the scoring action right before halftime with a 24-yard touchdown run. By the break he had rushed for 113 yards, Williams had accounted for 235 all-purpose yards and the Camels led 34-6.
A new half ushered in a new-look Eagles team. NC Central has not allowed a third quarter point all year and they kept that streak alive after stopping the Camels on a fourth down late in the frame. The defense stepped up and finally stopped the bleeding and the offense burst to life.
With just 1:19 left in the third, Richard hit Quentin McCall in stride down the sideline for a big pass to set up the Eagles at the one-yard line. On the first play of the fourth, they punched it in when Richard connected with Smith for the duo's second touchdown. Again, though, the two-point try failed.
The Eagles' comeback effort was all for naught in the end. Campbell tacked on another score thanks to a big 35-yard touchdown run by NaQuari Rogers to ice it. And if that wasn't quite enough, a blocked punt returned for a score by Alex Santiago surely was. When the dust settled, the Camels ran away with it 48-18.
Williams finished his day with 294 combined yards and a rushing touchdown. Barr ran for 135 yards and another score. All five of Campbell’s offensive TDs came on the ground and every ball carrier found the goal line at least once.
Campbell was aggressive all day it paid off. Now at 2-2, they’ve given their season new life and, in a Big South where no one had set themselves apart yet, the Camels now stand out. Their high-powered offense is hard to stop and the defense flies around. If Mike Minter keeps them playing like this, they’ll be a thorn for the rest of the season. They’ll play Charleston Southern next Saturday.
NC Central, meanwhile, will lick their wounds and look to bounce back against Morgan State after the upcoming bye week. Richard will try to shake off his ___ interceptions. As rough as this game was, however, hope is not dead for the Eagles in the MEAC. At 4-1, they have plenty of time to get things right.