GREENSBORO - Thursday night's ending was great for TV, but horrific for anyone associated with North Carolina A&T. Morgan State quarterback Robert Council found receiver Andrew King in the back of the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown reception with 10 seconds remaining as the Bears left Aggie Stadium with a dramatic 21-18 win over A&T in front of a nationally-television audience watching on ESPNU.
It was the Aggies first game on television in two years and their first at Aggie Stadium in five years. Unfortunately, the Aggie TV appearance resulted in a loss like the five others. Despite the gruesome ending, there was a bright side. Senior Mike Mayhew rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. In the process, he became the Aggies all-time leading rusher, snapping Maurice Hicks' 11-year old mark.
But despite helping Mayhew rush for 2,882 yards in his career, it was the few yards and inches here and there, he and the Aggies (2-2, 0-1 MEAC) failed to get that made the difference on Thursday night. A missed extra point and field goal along with the failure to get a crucial first down helped the Bears improve to 2-2 overall and 1-0 in the MEAC.
With the Aggies leading 18-14 and facing a 3rd-and-4 from their own 30-yard line, Morgan State called its final timeout with 1:58 remaining in the game. If on the next play the Aggies pick up the first down, the game is over. But as Mayhew dashed into the line of scrimmage, Morgan State linebacker Bakari Smith was waiting for him. Mayhew picked up just two yards, which forced an Aggies punt.
After a 53-yard punt by Zach Cimaglia, the Bears took over at their own 23. On 3rd-and-10 from the MSU 39, Tyrone Hendrix caught a pass from Robert Council for a 12-yard gain, but it was ruled Hendrix stepped out of bounds. But after the referees asked for an official instant replay review, the call was overturned. The Bears would eventually take the second opportunity to march the ball to the Aggies 14.
An intentional grounding call, however, forced the Bears to face a 3rd-and-28 from the 32 with only 18 seconds remaining. Council, whose mobility helped him rush for 59 yards on 10 carries, scrambled away from several Aggie tacklers. He came close to crossing the line of scrimmage as he launched a pass to back of the end zone.
King got behind the Aggies defense and caught the pass for the shocking touchdown receptions.
"In those situations, you don't let that ball get behind you," said A&T head coach Rod Broadway. "We got pressure and tried to defend, but when it was time to make a play, we just didn't. That's football 101, with the game on the line, you can't do let them get behind you."
It was a game of missed opportunities for A&T. After the Aggies used a 55-yard completion to Larry Raper to score on a 1-yard touchdown from Dominique Drake, Cimaglia missed the first of his 16 extra points in 2012 to keep the score 6-0. Just before the half, the Aggies had a chance to regain the lead after falling behind 7-6.
A false start forced Cimaglia to kick a 39-yard field goal instead of 34 yarder. Cimaglia missed wide right to keep the Bears ahead. Kristia Johnson gave the Bears a 14-6 lead on a 34-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter.
"We were out there playing a little flat," said A&T quarterback Lewis Kindle. "We were not giving as much effort as we could have. With the game on the line, we went out there and stepped up, but it needs to be like that the whole game. We waited too late to try to do something."
Kindle helped reignite the Aggies offense by rushing 18 yards to give the Aggies a 1st-and-10 at MSU 19 with 10:05 remaining in the game. On the next play, Mayhew broke free down the sideline to pull A&T to within 14-12 on a 19-yard touchdown run.
The Aggies failed to convert on the two-point conversion, but a botched snap by the Bears led to a fumble which Chris Neal recovered at the MSU 23. It didn't take the Aggies long to score again as Mayhew ran off tackle on a stretch play from seven yards out to give A&T an 18-14 lead.
On the Bears ensuing drive, they drove 47 yards on 10 plays before A&T stopped them on a 4th-and-6 from the A&T 14 on a pass attempt from Council to King. The two didn't fail again.
"We let this one slip away," said Broadway. "All we have to do is make one first down and the ballgame is over. We missed the extra point, we missed the field goal. There are so some many things we could have done during the course of this ballgame that would have changed the outcome. We need to understand every play is important. We can't take plays off. We weren't as focused as we needed to be. That's my responsibility. I've got to do a better job of getting our guys ready to play in these type of ballgames."
The Aggies will have a little time to recover. They do not play again for another nine days when they travel to Daytona Beach, Fla., to face Bethune-Cookman at 4 p.m., on Oct. 6.
"We'll all linger on this for a little while because that's football," said Broadway. "We need to get back out and get it out of our system because we've got to go play. What happened tonight happens. Every week half the teams get beat, we've just got to move on. The way we lost, yes, it's tough because we had the game won."