BOONE – No spring practice? No problem.
North Carolina A&T got tremendous help from its special teams, and the defense that was ranked second in Division I-FCS last season didn’t look as if it had lost its bite as the Aggies upset No. 21 Appalachian State 24-21 at Kidd Brewer Stadium Saturday night.
It was the Aggies (1-0) first win ever at Kidd Brewer Stadium. It was also the Aggies first win over a ranked opponent since they beat No. 13 Bethune-Cookman 13-7 on Nov. 1, 2003 in Daytona Beach, Fla. The Aggies beat a non-HBCU for the first time since beating Elon 19-17 on Sept. 25, 2004.
“I’m especially proud of our coaching staff,” said A&T head coach Rod Broadway. “Their preparation of getting our guys ready to play…especially considering we didn’t have spring ball…to come up here and play against a program like App State and win is a miracle to me.”
A&T held a 24-6 lead with less than nine minutes to play in the game. But the Mountaineers (0-2) put together an 11-play drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown reception by Barrett Burns. Despite the score, the Aggies looked poised to put the game away with three minutes to play. They stopped ASU on fourth down and took over the ball at the ASU 14. A&T ran four plays for five yards, deciding to go for it on fourth down instead of kicking a field goal.
ASU responded by using its hurry-up offense to score in 90 seconds as a 9-yard Marcus Cox touchdown pass cut the Aggies lead to three with 24 seconds remaining. The Mountaineers recovered the ensuing onside kick to put an even bigger scare in the Aggie faithful.
“We’ve got to get better,” said Broadway. “We should have had the game a lot earlier. We gave up too many drives there at the end. We’ve got to get some things corrected, especially clock management right there at the end.”
ASU drove the ball to the Aggies 30 before a 46-yard attempt from Drew Stewart with four seconds remaining went wide left, giving the Aggies their first non-conference road win in four years.
“As you walk around this place, they’ve won three national championships in eight years, they’ve won seven out of the last eight conference championships. For us and our program to win the game is big and hopefully this will be the start of something good. But the bottom line is, it’s still just one game.”
The day didn’t start out too well for the Aggies as the Mountaineers took their first possession and drove the ball 80 yards in 11 plays as Cox scored on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Jamal Londry-Jackson. The Mountaineers attempted a two-point conversion but it was intercepted by Ayodeji Olatoye.
The Aggies got the lift that they needed as sophomore Tony McRae returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown.
“It’s football,” said Broadway. “Big plays win ball games. We made a play.”
McRae’s return was not the final time A&T’s special teams played a significant role Saturday night. Freshman punter Dominic Frescura pinned the Mountaineers inside their own 20-yard line five times on Saturday. One of those instances came toward the end of the first quarter when his punt placed ASU at its own 5.
The Aggies defense held ASU to a three-and-out, setting the Aggies up at the ASU 47. Eight plays later, Aggies quarterback Kwashaun Quick found Desmond Lawrence in the back of the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown pass. The Aggies took a 21-6 lead into the half thanks to a 57-yard interception return by D’Vonte Grant. It was his third career INT return for a touchdown, tying Curtis Deloatch’s school record.
“Well, considering a came in here as a walk-on, any records a tie or break are a blessing,” said Grant. Lawrence had five receptions for 43 yards in his Aggies debut. Aggies running back Dominique Drake finished with 84 yards on 25 carries and defensively Travis Crosby led the Aggies with 12 tackles.
The Aggies face another Southern Conference opponent next week as they host Elon at Aggie Stadium, 6 p.m., Saturday.