GREENSBORO – Once he got rolling, it didn’t take Tarik Cohen long to reach a significant milestone in A&T history.
Cohen rushed for 98 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries as North Carolina A&T eased to victory over Savannah State, 41-14, in football action at Aggie Stadium Saturday afternoon. In the process of having another stellar performance, Cohen became the first Aggie freshman to put together an 1,000 yard rushing. He became the seventh overall Aggie to have an 1,000-yard season, joining James White, Milton Shaw, Maurice Smith, Maurice Hicks, Michael Ferguson and Mike Mayhew.
Cohen had 129 yards rushing in the first four games of his collegiate career. But over the past six games he has rushed for 894 yards, and the Aggies still have one more game to play.
“He’s made a lot of plays for us,” said A&T head coach Rod Broadway. “He’s a tough little sucker. He’s tough, he has a great attitude and a great work ethic. This is the type of kid that I love to coach and have in any program. “
Cohen made his run to the 1,000-yard plateau an entertaining one. He started out going right, ran into three Tiger defenders, he then did a spin move out of a tackle, cut back to the left, confronted another Tiger defender, broke free from him with hop-step before turning up field and going down the sideline for a breath-taking 49-yard touchdown run that gave A&T a 21-0 lead in the first quarter.
“My goal is to not let one person tackle me,” said Cohen, who has rushed for 1,023 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013. “I want to get a first down every time I tough the ball.”
Cohen’s day pretty much ended after his impressive run. He carried the ball just four more times, but in the process he scored on a 4th-and-3 from the SSU 7-yard line as he went off the right side on sweep play to give A&T a 28-0 lead to open the second quarter.
The Aggies closed the first half with a 5-yard touchdown pass from senior Lewis Kindle to freshman receiver Denzel Keyes, giving the Aggies a 35-0 halftime lead.
Cohen didn’t play in the second half. Broadway said he made the decision to avoid Cohen getting hurt in a game where the Aggies held a big lead.
“I’m so proud of him,” said Broadway. “If he keeps his head on right, this kid is going to be unbelievable. He’s already unbelievable. A couple of years from now, this guy is going to be amazing.”
The Tigers (1-11, 0-8 MEAC) had a few highlights in the second half. Sheldon Barnes ended the shutout when he caught a swing pass from Savannah State quarterback Leon Prunty and ran 49 yards for a touchdown. Backup quarterback Victorian Hardison found a wide open Edward Lackey running down the middle of the field for a 57-yard touchdown pass to account for the Tigers’ other score.
Despite the two big plays, the A&T defense held the Tigers to just 19 yards rushing. A&T’s six sacks contributed to Savannah State’s bad day on the ground. The Aggies had the fourth-best rushing defense in the nation coming into the game. Senior linebacker D’Vonte Grant moved closer to a 100-tackle season. He had 11 stops and needs 11 more to reach 100 for the season.
A&T (6-4, 3-4 MEAC) secured its second straight winning season with the victory. The last time the Aggies had back-to-back winning seasons was in 2000 and 2001. The Aggies will try to secure consecutive 7-4 seasons next Saturday when they face archrival N.C. Central at Aggie Stadium at 1 p.m. The Aggies will recognize players, managers and trainers for Senior Day.
“I happy for our seniors because they had a couple of 0-and-whatever or 1-10’s,” said Broadway. “It’s gotten to the point at my age, it’s not about me; it really isn’t. It means something for me for these guys to get joy out what they do and to experience success. That’s my joy.”