GREENSBORO – North Carolina A&T head coach Rod Broadway has a simple message for fans of Aggies football. Please don’t take watching a player like Tarik Cohen for granted. Players like him don’t come around often.
In front of 13,005 fans watching at Aggie Stadium and thousands more watching live on ESPNU Thursday night, Cohen put more erase marks into record books, while also leading the 18th-ranked N.C. A&T Aggies to a 35-0 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference win over Norfolk State at Aggie Stadium.
Cohen rushed for 200 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. In the process, he became the MEAC’s all-time leading rusher, breaking the record of Will Ford who played for South Carolina State from 2006-09. He broke the record on a 62-yard touchdown run 63 seconds into the fourth quarter. He was 23 yards shy of Ford’s mark before the long run.
Cohen’s fourth-quarter touchdown also gave him 200 yards for the night, giving him a school-record sixth 200-yard rushing performance, breaking Maurice Hicks’ mark of five. N.C. A&T’s all-purpose yardage record also came tumbling down. After adding 19 yards receiving to his totals, Cohen ended the night with 5,489 career all-purpose yards, topping the old mark held by former Aggies punt returner, kick returner and wide receiver Herbert Harbison (5,383).
“I don’t know what else to say about this guy,” said Broadway. “All of you guys need to sit back and appreciate greatness because you don’t get to see it a lot. This kid is something. To see him break all these records and do all these things is amazing. He’s a special person, and I’m glad he’s on our football team.”
As he heads toward his fourth 1,000-yard season, Cohen credited the offensive line of his freshman season for helping him break the conference rushing record. The biggest hurdle to breaking records according to Cohen, the 2013 MEAC Rookie of the Year, is having a big year as a freshman. The 2013 offensive made it a point of emphasis to get him to 1,000 yards which is why he is so fond of them.
Cohen knew he was close to breaking the MEAC mark going into the game.
“It was in the back of mind,” said Cohen. “Once I started to get near it, and we were at a comfortable lead, I started pressing. I was a little mad and frustrated that I wasn’t there yet. But when I broke the last one, it was like a relief and a weight taken off me.”
There was more than one record breaker at N.C. A&T Thursday night. Senior wide receiver Denzel Keyes also went into the Aggies record book. With 4:37 remaining in the third quarter, he caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Oluwafemi Bamiro for his 20th career touchdown reception, breaking Craig Thompson’s old mark of 19.
But more importantly for the N.C. A&T team, they were able to improve to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the MEAC as they shutout an opponent at home for the second time this season. It was the Aggies first shutout of Norfolk State since beating the Spartans 43-0 in 2001. The Spartans (1-5, 0-3 MEAC) have now gone 13 straight quarters without scoring a touchdown against N.C. A&T. The Aggies held the Spartans to 26 yards rushing and 137 yards of total offense.
Before the records started falling, the Aggies held a 14-0 halftime lead thanks to two second-quarter touchdowns. A 4-yard touchdown run by redshirt sophomore quarterback Lamar Raynard was the first score of the night, followed by an 8-yard touchdown pass from Raynard to freshman Elijah Bell. Keyes then went into the record books with his TD reception which was set up by a 44-yard Cohen run that propelled Cohen to the top of the Aggies all-purpose yards list.
Cohen, who had 204 second-half yards last week against Hampton, had 134 second-half yards on Thursday. His 62-yard sprint gave the Aggies a 28-0. N.C. A&T closed out the scoring with Aggies redshirt freshman Jalon Bethea blocking a Bo Lomax punt and Darryl Johnson, Jr., recovering it in the end zone.
“When we have players like this it makes my job a lot easier,” said Broadway who improved to 42-20 as the Aggies head coach. “The key for us is to continue to get better and continue to win. I’m proud of my guys, the way they perform and the way they continue to win. Let’s keep this thing rolling.”
The Aggies travel to Daytona Beach, Fla., next week for another televised Thursday night game on ESPNU as N.C. A&T will face Bethune-Cookman at 7:30 p.m.
Courtesy: NCA&T Athletics