Don’t Expect A Different Outcome In The I-40 Showdown

By L.A. Batchelor
Updated: August 29, 2007

NORTH CAROLINA — Last season the score was 41-14 and no one knows what the score will be this year but one thing seems certain in the I-40 Showdown between the Aggies of North Carolina A&T and The Rams of Winston Salem State University, the Rams will win the game again this season. It will be wild, crazy and loud off the field and in the stadium, but on the field The Rams will be the team that RUNS wild and speaks loud as the Rams dominate the Aggies once again.

Both teams are trying to put the 2006 season behind them for very different reasons. The Aggies are looking to forget about a disastrous 2006 season that saw them go 0-11 in Coach Lee Fobbs first season, while the Rams want to forget about the three or four games they let get away which could have made their record 8-3 instead of 4-7.

With all the pain and humiliation Coach Fobbs and Aggie fans endured last season, he remains very optimistic. “There has not been one word said about 2006 since spring practice started,” said Fobbs. “We don’t see the benefit in it. Last year is gone, so we’re focusing on the next goal and that’s beating Winston Salem State,” Fobbs also said.

The Aggies are undermanned but do have some talent. Some surprises can occur on the defensive side of the ball. They return eight starters that are juniors and sophomores this season that had the unfortunate task of trying to stop opposing offenses to no avail, but should be better equipped and seasoned for this game and this season.

Coach Fobbs is looking for big plays and solid coverage from Clemson transfer Brandon Corley at defensive back. The hope is Corley can give the Aggies some stability in the secondary because of his experience at the Division I level. Fobbs looks for an even better season from sophomore linebacker Andre Thornton this year. Thornton became the first freshmen to lead the Aggies in tackles last season.

Offensively, the Aggies rely on 5-foot-11 junior Michael Ferguson to grind out the tough yards while looking for the occasional home run sprint to the end zone from the speedy running backs David Robinson and Demerick Chancellor. The key for the Aggies this game and for the season is their quarterback position.

When last year’s starter, Wayne Campbell sustained and ACL injury, others like the lanky red-shirt Sophomore, Herber Miller will be counted on to make smart decisions and lead the offense to touchdowns. Something the Aggies had plenty of problems accomplishing last season.

The Rams’ future is bright for this game and many believe for the 2007 season. Like the Aggies, the Rams rely on a dominating defense and a solid running game to get in the “W” column. Unlike the Aggies, The Rams had those two components last season but stumbled at times in games that proved costly and put them in the “L” column. Defensively the team returns many “studs” that are fast, physical and confident and ready to play for Coach Blount.

WSSU is led by senior linebacker Thadeus Griffin, who has led the team in tackles the last two seasons, had 5.5 tackles for a loss, a sack and finished tied on the team in interceptions with three. Another stud on their talented defense is senior defensive lineman William Hayes. Hayes had 57 tackles, led the team in sacks with 6.5, had an interception and two fumble recoveries.

Others like Ron Middleton, Michael Moore, Juan Corders, Nathaniel Biggs, Demetrius Rivers, Darrian Bynum, Desmond Jordan and Corie Sweenie all should have an impact in stopping and frustrating the Aggies offense and offenses all season. Offensively the Rams posses some underrated talent. Underrated because so much deserving attention is given to the defense. Sophomore Johnathan Kinzer made some big catches last year as a freshmen and will be looked upon to continue his development.

Senior tight end Javon Hubbard will have to will get lots of playing time and will have to step up to give starting quarterback Monte Purvis another weapon in the passing game while providing solid blocking in pass protection and the run game which is The Rams “bread and butter”.

WSSU has a talented mixture of speed and power in Tionti Powell, Brandon McRae and Jed Bines. McRae acted as the work horse leading the team in rushing with 623 yards. Powell was the speed threat finishing the season second on the team in rushing and averaging an impressive 4.6 yards per carry. Jed Bines was injured last season but in 2005, finished second on the team in rushing and averaged nearly 6 yards per carry but if the offense is to be successful and score points, it falls primarily on the shoulders of Monte Purvis.

Purvis will have to be much better in reading defenses and making smarter decisions. He finished with a 91.08 efficiency rating which is deceiving considering he only threw the ball about 13 times per game. Purvis will also need the talented defense to put him and the offense in good scoring situations and the running game must be productive. If these things occur and Purvis can get into rhythm not only in the game vs. A&T, but as the season progresses, he may gain the confidence he needs to be successful and Coach Blount and Offensive Coordinator Nick Calcutta will have confidence in him and open up the offense more and throw the football down the field.

Overall, I don’t see this game being close at all. The Aggies have the incentive to play hard to win, but The Rams have the overwhelming talent on their side. Coach Fobbs is a solid Coach but it will take him some time to get the kind of talented players he needs to win this game and others in the MEAC.

Although The Rams need to allow Purvis to throw the ball vertically down the field, this will not be the game that happens. The Rams will use the running game to pound the ball early and often against The Aggies defense and The Rams defense will make big plays and get some turnovers which will lead to more points.

I am not great at predicting scores but if you ask me the score in this year’s I-40 Showdown, I would say 48-21 in favor of the Home team, The Winston Salem State University Rams. I’ve been wrong before, but sorry Aggie Fans, I don’t think this is one of those instances.