North Carolina A&T finds unlikely hero in baseball standout George Hines

North Carolina A&T was winless on the year, and looking for a spark. They found it in the first-half dominance of a fifth-year senior best known until now as a member of the Aggies baseball team.

George Hines went on to MEAC offensive player of the week honors after leading A&T to a 52-32 shellacking of Howard on Saturday — despite sitting out the second half of the game with an injury. In just two quarters for the Aggies (1-7, 1-4 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference), Hines threw for 235 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Those three scoring passes were the most thrown in a single game by an A&T passer in 15 seasons.

And they came after a period of sustained failure for the Agges, who were averaging less than 250 yards per game and had turned over the ball 17 times. Losers of 10 in a row dating from last season, North Carolina A&T came into the Howard contest allowing its opponents an average of 223.7 rushing yards per game.

The Bison (1-6, 0-4 MEAC) had already given up 42 points by the time Hines — an all-tournament performer in 2009 as North Carolina A&T won its fourth consecutive Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference baseball title — left the field at Aggie Stadium.

“We didn’t dumb down the offense for him,” A&T coach Alonzo Lee said. “The offense he is running is our full assault. George is a student of the game, and that is why he is picking up on everything so quickly.”

[Athletics director Wheeler Brown fired in wake of North Carolina A&T track athlete’s death.]

The Aggies’ 438-yard offensive explosion included a fine effort by Mike Mayhew, the MEAC’s leading rusher, who finished with 109 yards and two touchdown runs. Wallace Miles had six catches for 107 yards and a touchdown, and Torrian Warren added 100 yards on four catches before a sparse crowd of 6,351 in 21,500-seat facility. They missed a 52-point explosion that was the most A&T had scored since 2001.

“I expected our offense to shine,” a delighed Lee added. “I mentioned that early in the year. With a good quarterback, you see we have the potential to score points. I didn’t expect 52, but I did expect us to come out and put some points on the board.”

Senior North Carolina A&T outside linebacker Jeremy Graham also earned co-MEAC defensive player of the week, a honor he shared with Bethune-Cookman linebacker Ryan Lewis. A&T now travels to Daytona Beach, Fla., to take on Lewis’ undefeated team in a Thursday night game on ESPNU.

For Howard, freshman quarterback Randy Liggins — already, the fourth signalcaller the Bisons have used this season — continued a steady maturation in his third consecutive start. He finished finished with a career-high 181 yards, with two TDs and two interceptions, in the Bisons’ loss.

Howard, which has lost eight key players to season-ending injury, came in averaging less than two touchdowns per game and had the lowest-scoring offense (11 points a night) in the MEAC. In that regard, even in defeat, the team could look to marked improvement with a 32-point outing.

Defensively, however, Howard allowed 50 points for the third time in the last five games — and the second time in as many weeks after giving up 56 points to Furman on Oct. 16. The Bisons return for homecoming against Norfolk State on Saturday.

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