ELON – Redshirt junior defensive lineman Marquis Ragland went Captain Obvious on everyone after North Carolina A&T’s 14-7 win over Elon Saturday night in non-conference football play at Rhodes Stadium. “If they can’t score, they can’t win,” Ragland said about the close contest.
Although obvious it certainly was effective against the Phoenix. The Aggies, who have won three straight over the Phoenix, allowed only 231 yards of offense, 88 rushing, and didn’t allow the Phoenix to score until the fourth quarter.
“That was a good football game,” said A&T head coach Rod Broadway. “It was a hard-fought football game and there were some licks being passed out there. I would have hoped to have scored a few more points, but Elon played well. You have to give them credit. You’ve got to give us some credit too because our guys hung in there and did what we had to do to win the ballgame.”
As stellar as N.C. A&T’s defense was, the Phoenix ‘D’ had its moments too. N.C. A&T preseason All-American running back Tarik Cohen only had nine yards rushing in the first half and did not have a single yard rushing in the second quarter. Cohen finished with 96 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.
The Aggies (2-1) only compiled 16 total yards over their first five drives while the Phoenix (1-2) only had one drive better than 30 yards over the first three quarters of the game.
Elon finally figured out the Aggies defense after freshman place kicker Steven Sawicki missed a 34-yard field goal. The Phoenix took over at its own 20-yard line with 34 seconds remaining in the third quarter and executed a seven-play, 80-yard drive that included a 27-yard completion from Connor Christiansen to Demitri Allison. It culminated with Christiansen scoring on a 16-yard run off a read option play where he got the Aggies to buy the inside fake before running into the end zone untouched with 13:58 remaining in the game. The touchdown marked the first time Elon has scored a touchdown against A&T in eight quarters.
“We made a lot of mistakes out there,” said Broadway about a defense 13 minutes away from a shutout. “They played hard, they made some plays and they hung in there pretty good. But we blew so many calls defensive front wise.”
After the Phoenix scored, both teams became stingy again. Each team had two drives apiece over the next six minutes but combined to run only 11 plays including an interception by Elon’s Greg Liggs, Jr., at the Elon 5 with 9:29 to play. But the Phoenix were not able to get out from their own end zone, giving the Aggies good field position at the 50-yard line after the punt.
Senior quarterback Kwashaun Quick and Cohen took over. They accounted for all the Aggies yardage on a 7-play, 50-yard drive that ended with Cohen scoring from 13 yards out to give A&T a 14-7 lead. The Phoenix did get the ball at their own 47 on the ensuing kickoff and were able to convert a 4th-and-8, but the Aggies defense halted the drive at the N.C. A&T 39 to clinch the win.
“We couldn’t afford to take a play off the whole game,” said Ragland who finished with a team-high nine tackles. “The offense wasn’t scoring so we knew we had to make plays. The score was low but they still made too many plays. We can be better.”
N.C. A&T’s offense did score in the first half after a missed 50-yard field John Gallagher gave the Aggies the ball at the Elon 33. Quick rushed for 31 yards on a 12-play, 67-yard drive that ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass to junior Denzel Keyes with 1:27 remaining in the first half.
A&T will take next week off before playing exclusively MEAC games starting with a game at Hampton at 2p.m., on Oct. 3.