SAVANNAH, Ga. – North Carolina A&T head football coach Rod Broadway summed up the position his team is in the best.
“This is a good football team. If we win next week, it will be a great football team,” he said after the Aggies defeated Savannah State 34-0 at Wright Stadium Saturday afternoon.
The win gave the Aggies (9-2, 6-1 MEAC) at least a share of the MEAC title. It is A&T’s first conference title since 2003. In order to win the title outright the Aggies will have to beat longtime archrival N.C. Central on Saturday, Nov. 22 in Durham at 2 p.m.
The Eagles (6-5, 5-2 MEAC) were 19-14 winners over Norfolk State on Saturday and therefore will be playing for a share of the MEAC title themselves.
“The Central game is a big game,” said A&T quarterback Kwashaun Quick who threw for 135 yards, two interceptions and a touchdown on 9-for-18 passing. “We know what that game brings. We know the kind of hype that surrounds it, so we’re going to have to go in focused and ready to play. We deserve better than a shared title, so we have to take care of the task at hand.”
It took the Aggies some time to take care of business Saturday against the Tigers (0-11, 0-8 MEAC). A&T’s three first quarter drives consisted of a fumble and back-to-back interceptions. The Tigers were able to advance the ball to the Aggies 37-yard line before fumbling. On their next drive, the Tigers advanced to the Aggies 15 before John Barron’s had his 32-yard field goal blocked by A&T’s Marquis Ragland. It was his third blocked kick of the season.
“We had to get the rust off,” said A&T running back Tarik Cohen who rushed for 115 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries. “We came out slow with a lot of mental errors. We just had to get our offense going because our defense was playing well.”
A&T’s defense secured its second straight shutout after blanking Morgan State last week. It marked the first time since 1954 the Aggies have put together two consecutive shutouts. Led by D’Vonte Grant’s 11 tackles, five tackles for loss, three sacks, forced fumble and interception, the Aggies held the Tigers to minus-8 yards rushing.
The offense got going in the second quarter when Quick lobbed a pass up for sophomore receiver Denzel Keyes on a free play in which the Tigers jumped offside. The completion gave the Aggies a 1st-and-10 at the SSU 28. Four plays later, Quick found tight end Dequan Swann on a crossing pattern for a 17-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 Aggies lead. Sophomore Cody Jones added a field goal to give A&T a 10-0 halftime lead.
The Aggies then exploded in the third quarter. Cohen scored on a 17-yard touchdown run on the Aggies opening drive of the half. After SSU punter Anthony Smith fumbled the long snap from center, allowing Jerome Beatty to recover at the Tigers 12, Cohen scored on a 2-yard run to close out a five-play, 12-yard drive. Cohen also scored on a 54-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
“To leave here 9-2 and at the very worst co-champions of this league after being 1-10 four years ago, my hat goes off to our players and our coaching staff,” said Broadway. “We don't want to share it. We want to win it outright.”
The Aggies know they will have to start better next week if they want their outright title in a place that will be hostile toward them.
“There is no denying it, it is a big rivalry,” said Broadway about the Aggie/Eagle rivalry. “We need to play really well because they have a good football team. We need to prepare well and we need to start better than we started today, and we need to finish just as strong if not stronger than we did today.”