GREENSBORO – Two special teams plays in the fourth quarter are what stood between North Carolina A&T and its upset win over No. 5 Coastal Carolina at Aggie Stadium Saturday night. The special teams errors happened on back-to-back plays in the 31-30 Chanticleers win.
A&T (1-1), who had lost each of its previous four matchups against Coastal Carolina (2-0) by more than 10 points, took its first lead of the game in the fourth quarter as Kwashaun Quick avoided numerous Chanticleer tacklers on his way to scoring on a 29-yard touchdown run. It was Quick’s fifth rushing touchdown in just two games played this season, and it gave the Aggies 30-24 lead with 7:16 remaining in the game.
What went largely unnoticed about Quick’s run was the fact that his helmet came off. By rule, he was forced to sit out the next play. This would prove to be significant. Quick, who is in his third season as the Aggies holder, was on the sideline while replacement holder and punter Dominic Frescura took over his duties.
Frescura mishandled a low snap and was eventually wrapped up and sent to the ground by Taylor Bagley.
Devin Brown then gave A&T more special teams woes when he returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. Alex Catron added the crucial extra point on to the end of Brown’s run to give the Chanticleers what turned out to be the final margin of victory.
The Aggies still had a chance to win. Quick’s 19-yard completion to Xavier Griffin gave the Aggies a 1st-and-10 on the Coastal 38-yard line with five minutes to play. But on a 3rd-and-9 from the Coastal 37, Quick was sacked for a 3-yard loss. The Aggies decided to punt on fourth down with less than four minutes remaining. The Chanticleers would run out the clock for the win.
“We actually talked about it, and we discussed it before the third down,” said Broadway about going for it on fourth down. “We felt like we were in two-down territory, but our third down play wasn’t a good play, so we felt like we had to go ahead and try to pin them.”
Coastal running back De’Angelo Henderson rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. As a team, the Chanticleers rushed for 219 yards against a defense known for stopping the run. Quarterback Alex Ross threw for 261 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions on 21-for-37 passing.
“I didn’t think that they run the ball like they did,” said A&T head coach Rod Broadway. “I didn’t think that anybody would run on us like they did. They just whipped us. The kickoff return was huge. That was the turning point in the ballgame after we dropped the extra point. We said all week we wanted to win the kicking game, but we didn’t do that because we gave up seven big points that was the difference in the ballgame tonight.”
The Aggies weren’t too shabby in running the ball either. Sophomore running back Tarik Cohen had 133 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. Quick added 96 yards rushing and three touchdowns. He was 12-for-32 through the air for 106 yards and two interceptions.
“We have some outstanding runners,” Broadway said. “Quick can make all kinds of plays with his feet and Tarik is unbelievable. I thought we had to run the ball to win and we ended up with 236 yards rushing, so that’s pretty good.
And as you can see, Quick is starting to get better, making good plays with his arm and making good plays with his feet. He has to get a little bit better with his decision making sometimes, but he is developing nicely and he is going to be a good quarterback.”
A&T forced three first-quarter turnovers but did not turn any of them into points. The Aggies did get on the board first thanks to a 36-yard punt return by freshman Khris Gardin that set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Quick to give the Aggies a 7-0 first quarter lead.
Coastal quickly responded by scoring 17 quick unanswered points on three drives that took only a combined 4:48 off the clock. The Aggies decided to quickly strike as well. Cohen broke through the line of scrimmage and made a slide move into the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown run. His run was set up by a 40-yard completion from wide receiver Denzel Keyes to tight end Dequan Swann after Keyes caught a lateral from Quick as the Aggies went into the locker room down 17-14.
“We expect to play well no matter who we are playing against on any Saturday,” said Quick. “Whether it’s a pro team, Clemson or anybody, we expect to win. We played all right, but it wasn’t enough to win as you can see.”