By David Coulson
College Sports Journal
GREENSBORO, N.C. — It had been 20 years, with plenty of peaks and valleys for North Carolina A&T, since this writer had set foot in Aggie Stadium. A lot has changed, from the new press box and shiny new seating to the successful coach patrolling the sidelines.
The longtime theme of NCAT football has been Aggie Pride and Rod Broadway has his program moving towards its expected place of prominence in the Historically Black College and University ranks.
That was apparent on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon as A&T made all of the plays it needed to make to win a showdown against Bethune-Cookman, 24-14, in the game likely to determine the Mid-Eastern Conference title this season.
Broadway, who prepped for his NCAT gig with successful runs at North Carolina Central and Grambling, delivered a co-championship to the Aggies last season as A&T went 9-3. But the Aggies (5-1 overall, 3-0 in league) took a major step towards winning the MEAC crown outright in 2015 by taking advantage of matchup advantages at key moments on Saturday.
Twice on third downs in the red zone, Broadway’s staff called for fade routes to 6-foot-4 receiver Denzel Keyes — who was matched up with a 5-10 defensive back — and twice Keyes leaped high in the air to corral throws from quarterbacks Kwashaun Quick and Lamar Raynard from two yards and four yards out to give the Aggies a 17-7 lead by the third period.
All-American running back Tarik Cohen smashed through the Wildcat defense on a nifty counter draw on third and long and raced 33 yards for another score in the fourth quarter to all but seal the contest.
Cohen, who served as a decoy for large stretches of the game, finished with 116 yards on 20 carries and added five receptions for 29. He now has 16 100-yard games in his Aggie career.
With Raynard (5-of-13, 27 yards passing) struggling to move A&T’s offense, Quick came off the bench to spark the Aggies, hitting 8-of-9 passes for 63 yards and adding 47 yards on 12 rushing attempts.
But while NCAT was spinning its wheels offensively early in the game, Bethune-Cookman (5-2, 3-1) was finding just as much trouble moving the ball against an Aggie defense led by defensive end Angelo Keyes, defensive tackle Michael Neal and free safety Zarius Lockhart.
Lockhart picked off a Quentin Williams pass and forced a fumble to provide A&T with two first-quarter turnovers, while Keyes, Neal and the rest of the Aggie defense pressured Williams and backup quarterback Larry Brihm throughout.
Bethune-Cookman managed just 247 yards of total offense.
Williams burned the NCAT secondary for an 82-yard TD strike to Jontavious Carter midway through the first period as B-CU took a 7-0 lead. But the Wildcats allowed 17 straight points to NCAT and didn’t score again until Brihm scored on his seven-yard option run in the fourth quarter.
Cohen put the game out of reach with his individual skill on the next Aggie drive and the A&T defense made that 10-point lead hold up.