Red Zone Blues
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - North Carolina A&T looked immune to scoring Saturday night. Even the most prime opportunities ended with the scoreboard unchanged on the visitor's side.
Thirty-five of the 49 plays A&T ran came in Bethune-Cookman territory. But the Aggies' many failed chances helped the Wildcats secure a 28-12 homecoming win at Municipal Stadium. To add to their offensive frustrations, the Aggies threw two interceptions in the end zone and missed a 19-yard field goal.
"I thought we had the ball in great field position most of the first half and couldn't score," said A&T head coach Rod Broadway. "Whenever you have the ball in the places we had the ball tonight, you need to come up with something. We were coming away with no points. That's a problem. We've got to go back and fix this thing."
A&T's issues on offenses were highlighted by the fact Bethune-Cookman ran 23 more plays. Despite the inability to move the ball, the Aggies defense played well to keep the game close. A&T even had a chance to take the lead in the third quarter. A&T nose tackle Brandon Young tossed Isidore Jackson for a 5-yard loss. In the process, he knocked the ball loose from Jackson.
Tyree Hearn recovered the fumble for A&T, giving the Aggies a 1st-and-goal from the Cookman 4-yard line. A draw play to senior running back Mike Mayhew for four yards made it 4th-and-goal from the 2. Down 14-12, the Aggies decided to kick a go-ahead field goal. But Cimaglia, who earlier missed an extra point, surprisingly missed wide right to keep the Wildcats in the lead.
There were consequences to Cimaglia's miss. Bethune-Cookman celebrated its good fortunes by putting together a 15-play, 80-yard drive that devoured nearly eight minutes off the clock. Rodney Scott ended the drive by catching a 6-yard touchdown pass from Quentin Williams for a 21-12 Wildcats lead.
"Right now we're an offensive team that is three-and-out, three-and-out," said Broadway. "When you can't convert third downs, you're going to have your defense out on the field a lot. We've got to find a way to move the ball because we don't have numbers to have our defense on the field that many plays."
There was a 96-minute delay from the scheduled kickoff because of lightning. Once the two teams finally started play, offense didn't seem like it was going to be a problem for A&T. On the Aggies second drive of the game, A&T quarterback Lewis Kindle completed passes of 27 and 24 to freshman receiver Marquis Gorham. The latter pass was lofted over the head of Wildcats defensive back Tim Burke for a touchdown and a 6-0 lead thanks to Cimaglia's missed point after.
As a result, it took Bethune-Cookman (4-2, 2-0 MEAC) five plays to take away A&T's lead as Jackson's 40-yard run set up his 1-yard TD run. But on the Wildcats' next possession, an errant snap to punter Kory Kowalski gave the Aggies 1st-and-goal from the 5. Two plays later, Kindle rolled to his left, pumped fake and then threw an interception into the hands of Burke.
A 27-yard completion to Trey Long in the second quarter seemed to put Kindle back on track. But on 3rd-and-8 from the B-CU 24, Rashad Payne intercepted Kindle in the end zone, once again leaving the Aggies without points.
"There are so many things we're not doing as a football team. It is hard to pinpoint one thing," said Broadway, who has seen his team miss two extra points, two field goals and go 6-for-26 on third downs the past two weeks. "We've just got to get better as a football team."
In total, the Aggies (2-3, 0-2 MEAC) threw three interceptions and totaled 163 yards in offense. They will try to recover next week when they face Howard at home at 1:30 p.m.