HAMPTON, Va. – North Carolina A&T freshman running back Tarik Cohen had his historic performance offset by three Aggie turnovers and three empty trips into the red zone as Hampton scored a 31-26 win over A&T in front of a rain-soaked homecoming crowd of 8,500 at Hampton’s Armstrong Stadium.
It was Hampton’s (1-5, 1-1 MEAC) first win of the season and its eighth straight win over A&T. Cohen had a freshman school-record 299 all-purpose yards as he rushed for 180 yards and a touchdown and had 119 yards receiving and a touchdown.
“He’s a warrior,” said A&T head coach Rod Broadway. “He is a freshman player with a lot of ability, and we’ve got to start playing him. He is our best player. We’ve got to get him on the field and get the ball in his hand and let him make plays for us.”
Cohen was instrumental in the Aggies (3-2, 1-2 MEAC) overcoming a 28-12 halftime deficit. With a little more than three minutes remaining in the third quarter, Cohen took a shovel pass from senior quarterback Lewis Kindle and turned it into an 81-yard touchdown catch and run that pulled the Aggies to within nine. It was the longest completion of Kindle’s career. Cohen’s play appeared to fire up the Aggies.
After Hampton went 3-and-out on its next offensive possession, the Aggies took over at their own 33-yard line. On 2nd-and-5, Kindle completed an 11-yard pass to Desmond Lawrence. Two plays later, Cohen ripped off a 25-yard run followed by a 20-yard touchdown run by Kindle. But as Kindle celebrated in the back of the end zone, a yellow penalty flag covered a portion of the wet surface at Armstrong Stadium.
A holding penalty negated Kindle’s score. It was followed by an 8-yard loss on a sack and two straight incompletions that led to a 15-yard punt by Kindle.
“I never thought momentum was on our side based on the way we played the entire game,” said Broadway. “Even when we scored the back-to-back touchdowns, the last one was called back because of holding. There was crazy stuff we did to ourselves over the course of the game that we just couldn’t overcome.”
Hampton was not without its mistakes. A&T had its hopes revitalized when A&T senior middle linebacker Brian Houston intercepted a Bryan Bailey pass and returned it 24 yards for a pick-6 that pulled the Aggies to within two after the extra point, 28-26.
The A&T defense held the Pirates to another 3-and-out, leading to an A&T drive starting at its own 24. The Aggies moved the ball inside the Hampton 40, but could not overcome a 12-yard loss on 2nd-and-9 as Kindle was sacked by Denzel Heath. The Aggies did manage to get it to a 4th-and-6, but Kindle barely got his pass off before Heath brought him to the ground.
It marked the fifth time in the game the Aggies had the ball inside the Hampton 40 on Saturday and came away with no points.
The Pirates would go on to ice the game with a 10-play, 51-yard drive that resulted in a 31-yard field goal by Anthony Prevost.
“You can’t turn it over four times – three of them lead to touchdowns – and expect to win the game. I don’t care who you are playing,” said Broadway. “We’re not a very smart football team right now. Give them credit. They played well and earned the win they got. But we had the ball inside the 15 three or four times and get penalties and come away with no points.”
In fact, the Aggies’ day started that way. Preseason All-American punt returner D’Vonte Graham returned a punt 43 yards to give the Aggies 1st-and-goal at the Hampton 4 for the Aggies opening drive. After two plays, the Aggies had it 1st-and-goal at the Hampton 1. But an unsportsmanlike penalty on the Aggies moved the ball back to the 15, where the Aggies eventually had to settle for a 27-yard field goal attempt that sailed wide right.
Hampton then drove the ball down the field 80 yards for an early 7-0 lead. The Aggies did bounce back to take a 12-7 lead thanks to a safety, a field goal and a 29-yard touchdown run by Cohen. But two Kindle interceptions led to a pick-6 and a 1st-and-10 at the A&T 15, which eventually led to a 15-yard touchdown pass from Bailey to Washington.
Hampton closed the first half with another touchdown as Aggies punter Dominic Frescura mishandled the long snap, tried to recover to punt the ball and ended up losing it out-of-bounds, giving Hampton a 1st-and-goal at the Aggies 7. Leon Shorter scored on a 7-yard touchdown pass to give the Pirates a 28-12 halftime lead.
“We’ve got to protect the ball better,” said Broadway. “We’re going to go back, evaluate the film and then make the necessary changes we need to make.”
Houston led the Aggies defensively with a career-high 11 tackles. The Aggies return home next week to face Delaware State, Saturday, Oct. 19 at 1 p.m., at Aggie Stadium.