FLORENCE — Pads leaning forward, Jordan Bentley continued to churn as he battled for yardage.
One defender. Two defenders. … Even five or six.
It did not matter how defenders were trying to knock Bentley to the turf, the big, powerful Alabama A&M running back was not going down without a fight.
Nor were his teammates.
Playing in a challenging road venue, Bentley and company made history as Alabama A&M rallied back from an 18-point halftime deficit to top North Alabama 31-24 Saturday night at Braly Stadium.
The win was Alabama A&M’s first against North Alabama in 31 years.
“To win this one is pretty special,” Bentley said. “And to go on the road and do this as a senior makes it that much better.”
For Alabama A&M (2-1), Bentley was a workhorse.
The 6-foot-1, 218-pound senior running back from Guntersville carried the ball 26 times, rushing for 124 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught three passes for 37 yards and a score.
Alabama A&M’s running game was a catalyst in swinging the game’s momentum.
Terrence Humphrey and Ron Thompson each rushed for touchdowns in the first half, and Joe Gurley kicked a pair of field goals to give North Alabama (1-2) an 18-0 halftime lead.
But after the break, everything shifted in Alabama A&M’s favor.
Bentley and sophomore Gary Quarles piled up yards in the running game, and the Alabama A&M defense clamped down on North Alabama’s offense.
Quarles rushed for 81 yards on 14 carries.
Alabama A&M finished with 458 yards of total offense, with 272 of them on the ground.
“Bentley is a playmaker,” Alabama A&M coach Connell Maynor said. “We feed him the ball and he gets the job done. He was big for us, but so was Gary Quarles. Both of those guys had some big runs.”
Coming into the game, for Alabama A&M, finding a way to slow down North Alabama dual-threat quarterback Christian Lopez was a priority.
Alabama A&M’s defense rose to the occasion, especially in the second half.
The Alabama A&M front seven consistently applied pressure on Lopez, recording a season-high four sacks and 12 tackles for loss.
Armoni Holloway finished with 11 tackles, a sack and five tackles for loss.
The fans also played a factor.
“The atmosphere is what you want out of college football,” Maynor said. “I loved seeing all the maroon and white in the stands, cheering on our team. That makes a difference.
“There were a lot of circumstances going on that we had to fight through just to even compete and win this game.
“I won’t get into all of those things, but I’m proud of our guys for fighting this entire game and coming out with a victory.”
“We never had any doubts,” he said. “At halftime, we went in and made the adjustments we need to make.
“To go into the locker room at halftime down 18-0, and then to come back out and see all of our fans are still here supporting us, cheering us on and supporting us to the very end, that can push you through obstacles. It makes a difference.
“So to win this one for our fans, knowing what this game means to them, that makes it even more special.”