GREENSBORO – A lot of things went North Carolina A&T’s way on Saturday.
First, the Aggies beat longtime nemesis Bethune-Cookman 24-14 at Aggie Stadium.
Then they did it in a contest build as the game of the week within the FCS landscape.
Finally, they took over sole possession of first place in the MEAC thanks to a Morgan State loss to Hampton. But following the big win over the Wildcats (5-2, 3-1 MEAC), the only thing the Aggies were concerned about is what happens next week as the Howard Bison visit N.C. A&T in the Greatest Homecoming on Earth at 1 p.m., October 24.
“All I know is this,” said Broadway after finding out about the MSU loss.
“When you’re in a car the windows are this big,” he continued as he spread his hands a part to indicate how big a car window is. “But the rearview window is only this big. There’s a reason for that. You can’t look back, you have to move forward. But also you can’t afford to look too far ahead either. You just have to focus on what’s right ahead of you. For us, that’s Howard. If we start thinking about what we can do this week and what we did that week, we’ll lose focus on what we’re trying to do, and how we’re trying to get there.”
N.C. A&T (5-1, 3-0 MEAC) got a step closer to there with a couple of lob passes in the end zone to junior receiver Denzel Keyes, an effective short yardage passing game from senior quarterback Kwashaun Quick, the talents of junior running back Tarik Cohen and an Aggies defense that forced the Wildcats to throw more to be effective.
A 4th-and-4 play in the fourth quarter also played a determining factor. Quick and redshirt freshman Lamar Raynard exchanged quarterbacking duties on the drive with Raynard connecting on 5-yard and 8-yard passes to Cohen to set up the crucial fourth down. Raynard took the snap and sprinted left like he was going to roll out and pass.
As he went left, Cohen sprinted parallel to the right. With the defense flowing toward Raynard, he reached out and handed the ball off to Cohen, who stopped in his tracks and ran up the middle of the field for a 33-yard touchdown untouched to give the Aggies a 10-point advantage with 11:23 remaining in the game. B-CU failed to convert fourth downs on its next two drives to seal the win for N.C. A&T who beat the Wildcats for just the second time in 10 tries.
Cohen finished with 116 yards rushing and one touchdown on 20 carries. For the second straight week, Cohen also led the Aggies in receiving with five caches for 29 yards. Keyes caught two touchdowns and Quick was 8-for-9 for 63 yards and a touchdown. He also had 47 yards rushing.
B-CU did have success throwing the ball against N.C. A&T with 358 yards passing. Starting quarterback Quentin Williams threw for 191 yards, a touchdown and an interception, while reserve Larry Brihm had 167 yards passing. Junior Jawill Davis had 103 yards receiving on six catches.
“That’s a good football team, a talented football team,” said Broadway. “They’re going to hit something on you. Our goal from day one has been to stop the run. We gave up 358 yards passing, so what; we won. It’s hard for people in this league to throw for 400 yards and beat you. If we take away the run, I like our chances. I don’t care if they throw for 400 yards, as longs as they don’t run it we’re okay.”
An early passing play did help the Wildcats get on the board first as Jontavious Carter did a double move and got behind the defense for an 82-yard touchdown pass from Williams in the first quarter. N.C. A&T scored the next 10 points including a 2-yard fade route where Keyes outmuscled Deitrich Johnson for a jump ball in the end zone in the second quarter as the Aggies led 10-7 at halftime. Keyes scored the Aggies first points in the second half in much the same way as he outjumped 5-9 Elliott Miller for a 4-yard TD reception from Raynard with 5:49 remaining in the third quarter.
The corners were small,” said Keyes. “When they call a play I just go out there and make the play. That’s what I’m coached to do, and that’s what they want me to do. It’s what I have to do.”
The Wildcats would turn to Brihm following the Keyes score, and he would direct an 18-play, 81-yard drive in 5:48 that ended with Brihm scoring on a 7-yard run to cut the Aggies lead to 17-14 early in the fourth quarter before Cohen’s big run.
“I think four out of the past five years they’ve been at the top of this league,” said Broadway. “For us to compete and win against a team like that, I think says a lot about the effort our football team, our players and our coaching staff put in.”