Cartwright Scores Two TDs In Blue & Gold Game
GREENSBORO (April 8, 2017) – Running back Tarik Cohen, one of the greatest players in North Carolina A&T football history, was never one to tote a lot of carries during a spring game. On Saturday, during the Aggies annual Blue & Gold Spring Game at Aggie Stadium, Cohen took zero carries and talked while he was standing on the sideline in street clothes because there will be no Tarik Cohen in the backfield in 2017 after the three-time MEAC Offensive Player of the Year saw his eligibility come to an end in 2016.
Cohen’s departure leaves many fans in Aggieland anxious to see how the Cohen-less Aggies backfield will fare in the fall. Rising junior Marquell Cartwright alleviated some anxiety on Saturday. Cartwright rushed for 95 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. Cartwright also had two catches for 18 yards. Cartwright’s high school teammate at High Point Andrews, rising junior quarterback Lamar Raynard, completed 19 of 33 passes for 216 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The Aggies defense scored a defensive touchdown (6 points), had two turnovers (6 points), made four fourth-down stops (8 points) and forced eight three-and-outs (8 points) to beat the offense 28-18. The day included 15 offensive drives and 110 plays.
“We have some good pieces in place, and if we can get better in some areas, we’ll have a chance of have a pretty good football team,” said N.C. A&T coach Rod Broadway as he enters his seventh season in the fall. “Cartwright is a warrior. It’s hard to replace an All-American, but he is an all-conference type running back. He is going to be okay.”
Cartwright was the first to get the offense in the end zone. On the offense’s first drive, Cartwright carried a few of his teammates over the goal line for a 6-yard TD. It was set up by a long pass from Raynard to rising junior Malik Wilson on the first play of the game. Cartwright’s second score, a 5-yard TD, came on a 15-play, 70-yard drive on the offense’s seventh drive. The only touchdown pass of the day came on the 11th drive when Raynard threw a fade route to 2016 conference rookie of the year Elijah Bell. Bell led the Aggies in receptions with six catches for 56 yards. He was targeted 11 times.
“I thought there were four balls Elijah should have had today,” said Broadway. “He ended up making some catches after he got going, but he’s got to get going earlier. I told him, ‘The difference between him being a good receiver and a great receiver is making difficult catches.’”
Other standout receivers included first-team All-MEAC tight end Leroy Hill (5 rec., 45 yards), Malik Wilson (3 rec., 73 yards), Khris Gardin (3 rec., 47 yards) and Xavier Griffin (4 rec., 44 yards). Raynard’s backup on Saturday, Isaiah Hicklin was 8-for-14 for 103 yards and an INT.
On the defensive side, sophomore defensive end Darryl Johnson, Jr., led the way. Johnson had nine tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and three sacks (the play was blown dead once players were close enough to tackle the quarterback). Redshirt freshman defensive back Justin Philip posted 11 tackles and broke up a pass. Julius Reynolds (8 tackles), Kiaundric Richardson (7 tackles) and Jalon Bethea (6 tackles) also had good games. Turner Echols and Justin Cates had two sacks apiece.
The defense’s major highlight came from Timadre Abram who returned a Raynard pass 42 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the second drive. David Pulliam had the defense’s other interception on the eighth drive. From the defense’s 25-yard line, Hicklin dropped back, faked a screen to left and turned back right to throw only to have Pulliam step in front of the pass and return it 72 yards to the offense’s 3.
“We do not have our full complement of guys on defense, but I still feel like the guys we had out there could have been better,” said Broadway. “Our guys upfront did some good things, but it’s still not quite good enough. I do think you saw today that we’ve got some guys out there that can make plays.”
N.C. A&T opens the season on Sept. 2 at Gardner-Webb. The Aggies will be after their third straight postseason appearance and their third MEAC title in four years. They must do it like they did it on Saturday, without Mr. Cohen.
“There is so much work to be done between now and August 4th and from August 4th to the beginning of the season,” said Broadway. “If they’re willing to put in the work, then we will have a chance to have a pretty good football team.”