MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- — Lamar Raynard threw two touchdown passes and North Carolina A&T forced four turnovers to help the Aggies hold off Jacksonville State 20-17 and make a winner of new head coach Sam Washington in the season opener for both teams Saturday night.
Zerrick Cooper completed five straight passes late in the fourth quarter and drove Jacksonville State from its own 20 to the Aggies' 18 with 26 seconds left. Cooper spiked the ball to stop the clock, but on the ensuing play Darryl Johnson's strip-sack was recovered by Antoine Wilder and the Aggies ran out the clock. Cooper, who transferred from Clemson, finished 24-of-38 passing for 320 yards and two scores in his first start for the Gamecocks.
Jacksonville State won the only two prior matchups between the teams, in 1994 and '95. A&T is coming off a Historically Black Colleges and Universities championship win over Grambling and a 12-0 season. Jacksonville State won its fourth straight Ohio Valley Conference title last season before a first-round loss to Kennesaw State as the No. 3 seed in the FCS playoffs.
Raynard, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference offensive MVP last season, completed just 12 of 34 passes for 111 yards, but he found Zachary Leslie for a 24-yard score in the first quarter and then connected with Elijah Bell from 4 yards out for a third-quarter score. Malik Wilson returned a kickoff 98 yards for another Aggies touchdown in the third quarter.