Rough A&T First Half Helps UNC Win Big
CHAPEL HILL – The margin of defeat might not be the same, but North Carolina A&T head football coach Rod Broadway knows that if his Aggies make the same mistakes they made Saturday night against FBS power conference school North Carolina the result will be the same. A loss.
In the first half, the Aggies turned the ball over three times, had two less than stellar punts and missed some opportunities offensively and some assignments defensively in what turned out to be a 53-14 loss to the Tar Heels at Kenan Stadium. It was the first-ever meeting between the two teams and A&T’s first ACC opponent in 11 years.
“I don’t know who you’re going to beat making as many mistakes as we made tonight,” said Broadway, who graduated from North Carolina in 1977. “I don’t think we were playing bad early, we were just making mistakes that put us behind the 8-ball. There was a game worth of mistakes in the first half alone.”
A&T (1-1) opened the game with an opportunity to make a big play, but a pass from starter Kwashaun Quick misfired to a wide open Khris Gardin. On their second possession of the game, the Aggies moved the ball all the way to the UNC 48-yardline, but a 12-yard punt by Cody Jones prevented the Aggies from putting UNC in bad field position. Two plays after the Tar Heels took over at their own 36, UNC quarterback Marquis Williams wide open down the sideline for a 47-yard touchdown reception.
“That’s not how we play,” said Broadway. “We’ve got to do a better job of coaching and they’ve got to do a better job of playing. But anytime someone is running that wide open, we need to do a better of teaching.
“You’ve got him,” Broadway joked.
A&T’s third possession saw the Aggies go even deeper into UNC territory. But on a 1st-and-10 from the Tar Heel 36, redshirt sophomore Justin Smith caught a pass from Quick, but as he turned up field, fumbled allowing Sam Smiley to return the fumble 52 yards to the A&T 2. Elijah Hood scored from 1-yard out two plays later to give UNC a 22-0 lead as the first quarter came to an end.
“You can’t do those things against a team of this caliber and expect to win,” said Broadway. “You can’t do those types of things against teams in our league and expect to win. They didn’t need any help tonight beating us, but we certainly helped them more than we should have.”
A&T threw two interceptions in the second quarter, one leading to score and the other halting the momentum of an A&T drive that saw the Aggies reach the UNC 31. UNC ended the first-half scoring on a 10-play 68-yard drive that saw Williams find tight end Brandon Fitts in the back of the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown and a 36-0 halftime lead.
Junior running back Tarik Cohen led the Aggies with 69 yards on 15 carries. Gardin and junior Denzel Keyes had three receptions apiece for 49 and 46 yards respectively. Gardin also caught a 38-yard touchdown pass from redshirt freshman QB Lamar Raynard with 11:20 to play in the game. A&T ended the threat of being shutout when Quick scored from 1-yard at the 1:09 mark of the third quarter.
“We’re down to playing freshman receivers because we have three starters out of our lineup at receiver. It made sense to me with all those freshmen out there to go with a guy who can make plays with his feet,” Broadway said about his decision to start Quick over Raynard who started last week against Shaw. If we had our receivers maybe we make a different choice. But I thought Quick came in for his first game of the season and made some good plays.”
The Aggies return to the FCS level next week when it faces Elon at Rhodes Stadium at 6 p.m. Even with the problems Elon presents, it might be a fairer fight.
“What amazed me, and it was obvious watching the game, was just how fast Carolina was,” said Broadway. “We have some guys that can play at that speed, but we don’t have enough guys that can play at that speed and play that fast for 60 minutes. We’re fast for our league, but when we move up we’re very average speed wide.”