ELON – North Carolina A&T running back Tarik Cohen fancies himself as a player who can do multiple things on a football field. He even suggested that at some point this season he may he even kick a field goal. For now, the Aggies will live with what Cohen gave them in the Aggies 17-12 win over Elon Saturday night at Rhodes Stadium.
Cohen rushed for a career-high 234 yards and ran for a game-winning 81-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. He also accounted for the Aggies other touchdown with a two-yard TD pass to Denzel Keyes in the first quarter. It was the second 200-yard rushing performance of Cohen’s career and his fourth straight 100-plus rushing game dating back to last season. Cohen has two 80-plus yard runs this season.
“Thank God for him because he is making some plays for us,” said A&T head coach Rod Broadway.
Cohen’s game-winning run was set up by a defense that refused to let the Phoenix into the end zone and a defense that became stronger as the game progressed. A&T’s defense did not give up a touchdown despite the Phoenix advances to the Aggies 3, 5, 11, 4, 6-yard lines on five separate occasions during the game. Sophomore kicker John Gallagher provided all the scoring for the Phoenix by scoring on 4 of 5 of the Phoenix’ s trips inside the Aggies 10.
But it was the one time Gallagher wasn’t successful that may have turned the game in the Aggies’ favor. With a 12-10 lead, the Phoenix recovered a Kwashaun Quick fumble at the Aggies 48 with 5:06 to play in the third quarter. Elon used seven plays to earn a 1st-and-goal at the Aggies 8. But A&T junior cornerback Tony McRae broke up a Mike Quinn pass on third-and-goal from the 6 to force a fourth down.
Redshirt sophomore Marquis Ragland broke through the middle of the Phoenix’ protection and blocked Gallagher’s field goal to give the Aggies the ball back. A&T went three-and-out as Dominic Frescura’s 29-yard punt gave the Phoenix excellent field position at the Aggies 46. But the Aggies defense held the Phoenix to a three-and-out to set up their star running back for the game’s defining moment.
“You have to give a big thank you to our defense for bowing their necks and not letting them score and not letting them get in the end zone all game,” Cohen said. “That gave us a chance to score and get the ball in the end zone to take the lead.”
A&T took over at its own 12 with 12:58 remaining in the game. Quarterback Quick and the Aggies offense was faced with a 3rd-and-10. Quick responded by finding a diving Desmond Lawrence for an 11-yard completion and a first down. After a false start penalty, Cohen found himself in the open field with only Elon safety Chris Blair to beat. Despite Blair having the angle on Cohen, he still out ran him to the end zone for the 81-yarder.
“I felt like it was time for me to make a play,” said Cohen. “The game had been going back-and-forth, back-and-forth, so I felt like it was time for a big play to happen.”
Elon advanced to the A&T 34 on its next possession, but on 3rd-and-12 Aggies defensive end Angelo Keyes jumped in the path of a Quinn pass and intercepted it at the line of scrimmage with 9:32 to play. It was Elon’s last serious scoring threat of the game.
“That was a pretty good performance by our defense,” said Broadway. ‘We had some gap control issues. We have a lack of a pass rush we’ve got to get fixed. But our offense put our defense in some bad positions too many times and our defense was able to keep them out of the end zone. That was the difference in the ballgame.”
The Aggies stingy defense and the versatile Cohen will be back in action next week as they A&T takes on Chowan Saturday, Sept. 20 at Aggie Stadium at 6 p.m. Cohen, who came into the game second in the nation in yards per carry, averaged 11.7 yards per carry on Saturday night.
“I like to see myself as a versatile player,” Cohen said about his touchdown pass. “I’ve been learning from Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson.”