Before it can concentrate on Florida A&M, North Carolina A&T has Norfolk State to deal with.
When North Carolina A&T travels to Norfolk State on Saturday, the unbeaten Aggies will face a team in transition - one from bad to better.
After opening the season with three straight losses, Norfolk State coach Willie Bailey decided to junk his pro-style offense and replace it with his trademark wing-T. The result was a 46-45 win over Elizabeth City State last weekend.Seemingly, the Spartans are back to being one of the tougher games on A&T's non-conference schedule.
``On paper, they're not a very good team, but I know better,' A&T coach Bill Hayes said this week.
Bailey deployed the pro-style offense in hopes of showcasing first-year quarterback Aaron Sparrow, a highly touted high school quarterback who originally signed at the University of Virginia before eventually joining Bailey's program after he failed to become academically eligible at UVa.
The pro-style never meshed with Sparrow's drop-back abilities, so Bailey went back to the offense that helped him to a 156-68-5 career record.
``They are back to doing the things they know how to do well,' Hayes said.
``(Sparrow) still presents problems because he's a great passer. The thing that helps us is he likes to stand in the pocket. . . . That gives us time to pursue. Hopefully that will be to our advantage.'
One factor working against A&T is next week's Mid-Eastern Conference showdown against Florida A&M. The game will be televised live from Orlando, and it figures to help determine the pecking order in the MEAC hierarchy.
``I know in the back of all our minds, the conference championship is paramount,' Hayes said. ``But right now, as a head football coach, Norfolk is a real challenge. Norfolk is a hot bed of recruiting, and there's some kids up there we're trying to recruit.'
Saturday's game is the first for A&T since the Aggies were ranked 15th nationally in the I-AA poll and first in the Sheridan Poll of historically black colleges.
____________________________________________________________________________\ N.C. A&T-NORFOLK STATE
Opponents/Records: North Carolina A&T (4-0 overall, 1-0 in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) at Norfolk State (1-3 overall, 1-2 in Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association).
Time/Place/Crowd: 1:30 p.m. at Foreman Field (artificial surface) in Norfolk, Va. (tickets available).
Media Coverage: WQMG-FM (1510).
Mainstays: A&T RB Barry Turner (2nd in MEAC in scoring at 9 ppg, 6th in rushing at 64.3 ypg), QB Maceo Bolin (6th in MEAC in total offense at 112.8 ypg), P Rodney Holloman (1st in MEAC in punting a 41.9 ypp). Norfolk State QB Aaron Sparrow, SE Travis Ramseur.
Injured Starters: None reported.
Stakes/Outlook: Norfolk State is off to a disappointing start, having lost to Virginia State (by 7), Johnson C. Smith (by 7) and Fayetteville State (by 9). The Spartans won their first game last week with a 46-45 win over Elizabeth City State. North Carolina A&T's biggest worry is looking ahead to next week's MEAC showdown at Florida A&M. The Aggies are ranked No. 15 in this week's NCAA I-AA poll, No. 18 in the Sports Network poll and No. 1 in the Sheridan Poll. And next week, they face conference rival Florida A&M in Orlando, Fla.