Championship Saturday: N.C. A&T vs. Garner Webb Preview


Caulin Avery , Contributor

All the marbles are on the line this weekend in Boiling Springs, NC. This is Championship Saturday.

After a three-game losing streak to start the season, the Aggies have put together a seven-game winning streak and have gone undefeated in conference play. This seven-game win streak has put them in the position to win the Big South conference title and punch a ticket to the FCS Playoffs. 

This would be the Aggies first time competing in the FCS playoffs representing the Big South. 

Only one team stands in their way to an FCS Playoff appearance, and that’s the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs. While GWU is 5-5 on the season, they have an undefeated conference record, also going 4-0.

A&T’s offense has been powered by Sophomore running back Bhayshul Tuten. Tuten leads all Big South running back categories and the conference in all-purpose yards with 1,595. On the year, Tuten has 1,298 rushing yards and 297 receiving yards, with 16 touchdowns, 12 on the ground, and catching four.

Senior quarterback Jalen Fowler tandems Tuten in the backfield and adds another element to the run game. Through the air, Fowler has passed for 1,543 yards and 14 touchdowns. 

Also, in the backfield sharing the load is Freshman running back Wesley Graves. Graves is a powerful, downhill runner; on the season, he has rushed for 320 yards and four touchdowns.

The Aggie defense has also been at the forefront of this seven-game win streak. They come into the championship matchup ranked the #1 defense and lead in almost all defensive categories in the conference. 

Over the seven-game win streak, the defense has given up 19 points per game, while the offense has been outscoring opponents with 37 points per game.

Gardner-Webb comes in riding a three-game win streak and 4-1 in their last five games. Their offense is averaging 37 points per game as well. On the defensive side, they’ve been allowing opposing offenses 22 points per game. 

Gardner-Webb brings a top-two offense in the conference to Saturday’s showdown. They are led by Senior quarterback Bailey Fisher. Fisher has passed for 2,558 yards and 17 touchdowns. Receiver T.J. Luther has caught 51 passes for 1,010 yards and seven touchdowns. 

The strengths of each team will be put to the test Saturday afternoon. The dominant defense of the Aggies and high powered offense of the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs. Each coach relies on the strength of their team and puts together a game plan to stop the other team’s strengths. It’ll be essential to see which coach can make in-game adjustments to stop the game plans the other coach had installed.

One aspect of the game to look out for is the strong run game of the Aggies led by Tuten versus the defense of Gardner-Webb. The Bulldog’s defense ranks as the #2 run defense behind A&T. 

This time last year, Garner Webb was victorious against N.C. A&T, beating the Aggies 35-27 at Truist Stadium. A&T looks to have a different outcome with more at stake this time around.

It’s safe to say each team will put its best foot forward this weekend. All the hard work during the offseason and the ups and downs of the season have led to this point. This is championship Saturday for the Big South. Top teams in the league battle for a spot in FCS Playoffs.