NORFOLK, Va. - With all the strides the North Carolina A&T football program has made this season, including winning homecoming and defeating defending MEAC co-Champion Bethune-Cookman, it is easy to forget it is a program still recovering from two 0-11 seasons and one 1-10 season in the last five years.
There have been some unkind reminders over the last two weeks that the Aggies are still learning how to be successful. N.C. A&T had a chance to win on its final possession for the second consecutive week, and for the second straight week, they came up short.
Quarterback Lewis Kindle had three consecutive passes go through the hands of three different receivers in the final seconds of the game as Norfolk State survived the battle for first place in the MEAC with a 14-10 win at William "Dick" Price Stadium on Saturday.
"Everyone one knows the history of our program, we haven't won (anything) in the last 10 years," said N.C. A&T head coach Rod Broadway. "That's no excuse. We should have won this ball game just like we should have won last week's ball game. We've got to teach our guys how to win. They don't know how to win or how to finish right now. That's (the coaches') responsibility. They're playing fairly hard; we're just not putting them in a good enough position to win."
Last week the Aggies lost in overtime to Howard after Kindle was stopped at the 1-yard line on fourth down. This week was equally frustrating when the Aggies' missed opportunities are considered.
"We don't have anyone to blame but ourselves and our mistakes," said Broadway. "We just didn't execute."
N.C. A&T was just 2-for-17 on third down. Both teams had trouble operating their offenses and special teams with an unrelenting wind facing them every other quarter. But the Aggies seized the advantage in the fourth quarter with the wind at their backs.
They couldn't capitalize.
Jose Garcia-Camacho's 44-yard field goal attempt with seven minutes remaining was blocked by Terrence Pugh, keeping the Aggies in a four-point deficit. Then there was the final drive of the game. The Aggies took over at their own 33-yard line with 2:25 to go.
Kindle had runs of 7, 6, 20 and 9 to give the Aggies a 1st-and-10 at the NSU 13. He spiked the ball on first down to stop the clock at 47 seconds. N.C. A&T's second down play was a line drive that landed in Larry Raper's hands before falling out as a Spartan defender wrestled him to the ground.
On third down, Kindle's pass went to the back corner of the end zone and in and out of the outstretched right arm of Wallace Miles. A diving Torrian Warren was the Aggies last hope. But as he went to the ground with what appeared to be a game-winning touchdown pass, he couldn't keep the ball from hitting the turf.
It was a tough loss for the Aggies considering they held the Spartans to 265 yards of offense. Miles led the Aggies with eight catches for 109 yards. Redshirt freshman linebacker D'Vonte Grant had a season-high 17 tackles and 3 ½ tackles for loss.
N.C. A&T was in the second leg of a four-game road trip through the conference, and for the second straight week they were a part of an opponent's homecoming. The loss drops the Aggies (4-4, 3-2) back into a crowded group of teams with two losses in the MEAC, while Norfolk State (7-2, 5-1) stays atop the league.
"We just have to learn how to win close ball games," Broadway said. "I've said a number of times, if we are going to have a really good team; we have to win the close ones. We haven't been able to do that."