NORFOLK, Va. – North Carolina A&T scored quickly and often Saturday afternoon at Dick Price Stadium. The result was a 58-19 blowout of Norfolk State. The Aggies were aided four one-play scoring drives to defeat the Spartans for the sixth straight season.
N.C. A&T has 10 scoring drives this season of three plays or less. Six of those drives are one-play drives.
That has to be demoralizing for a team,” said N.C. A&T junior running back Jah-Maine Martin. “You believe you have a chance and then boom, one play, and we’re in the end zone.”
Martin has been the one most responsible for taking down opponents’ morale. Martin scored three more rushing touchdowns to give him 11 for the season, which is eight shy of breaking Tarik Cohen’s single-season record. Martin also added 199 yards rushing on 10 carries, which means he could lead the nation in rushing and yards per carry by Monday.
Two of Martin’s scores came on one-play drives where he ran a long way. His first score of the day, however, was set up first by an interception from junior safety Najee Reams. Carter had three interceptions on the day including one in the red zone. He was also sacked four times.
Reams’ first career interception gave the Aggies the ball 1st-and-10 at the NSU 36-yard line.
On the drive’s first play, Martin ran 34 yards to the NSU 2 before scoring on a 2-yard run on the next play to give the Aggies an early 7-0 lead. After a Spartans field goal, Martin started his one-play antics.
After Korey Banks’ kick0ff return gave the Aggies the ball at their own 33, Martin went off tackle, sprinted past some NSU defensive backs before making a magnificent juke move to maneuver past the safety for a 67-yard touchdown.
Despite missing the extra point, the Aggies started to roll from there. Aggies quarterback Kylil Carter was effective in the shadow of N.C. A&T rushing for 410 yards. Carter was 9-for-14 for 176 yards and three touchdowns. His first TD pass went to Quinzel Lockhart for five yards. The drive actually took some time to develop as the Aggies traveled 92 yards in nine plays before Lockhart scored his second touchdown of the season to give the Aggies a 20-3 lead.
Two of Carter’s TD passes went to junior receiver Zachary Leslie. The first was a 26-yard strike that hit Leslie perfectly in his chest to give the Aggies a 27-3 advantage. Leslie also had 106 yards receiving on four receptions.
A Noel Ruiz field goal upped his consecutive made field goals streak to eight and gave the Aggies a 30-3 lead. Martin then struck again by scoring on a 68-yard touchdown run. The drive took one play, of course, giving the Aggies a 37-3 lead with 3:16 remaining in the first half.
“I didn’t foresee us scoring 58 points, but I thought we could score on them,” said N.C. A&T coach Sam Washington. “When our offense is going well, it’s going well and when it’s not, it’s not. The question mark was them scoring on us.”
Norfolk State has shown the ability to score points this season with senior quarterback Juwan Carter. The Spartans scored 28 points against Florida A&M last week in a loss. The Spartans offense started revving up toward the end of the first half. They drove eight plays, 75 yards in three minutes to close the half with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Carter to Justin Smith.
After the missed extra point, the Spartans (1-5, 0-2 MEAC) went into the locker down 37-9. NSU then scored the first 10 points of the third quarter to cut the Aggies lead to 37-19.
“In my opinion, we just started playing poorly,” said Washington. “We just let the wheels come off. On their scoring drives, we had two or three penalties that kept them on the field. We can’t constantly keep giving teams second chances with penalties.”
But then there is always the one play. After getting the ball following NSU’s score, on first down, Carter sprinted out to his left and hit a wide-open Leslie sprinting down the sideline. Leslie out-sprinted NSU defenders to the end zone for the 68-yard touchdown score.
“I don’t like those,” Washington said about the one-play drives. “I prefer to eat up the clock in the process of scoring. But I’ll take scoring on one play over not scoring, any day.”
The Aggies kept the pressure on NSU’s defense. On their next drive, they drove the ball 51 yards on five plays as junior running back Kashon Baker on a 4-yard touchdown run to give the Aggies a 51-19. Backup sophomore quarterback Jalen Fowler closed out the scoring with a 4-yard TD run.
“We knew we had to get big Mo back. Momentum was swinging in their favor,” said Washington. “Fortunately, we got it back in one play. That takes a lot out of a team when that happens.”
Sophomore Kyin Howard led the Aggies defensively with 14 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble and one blocked extra point. The Aggies have another bye week approaching before traveling to Tallahassee, Fla., to face Florida A&M on Saturday, Oct. 19 at 6 p.m.