GREENSBORO - Coastal Carolina head football coach David Bennett had nothing but praise for his counterpart on Saturday - North Carolina A&T head coach Rod Broadway. Despite all of the admiration he heaped upon Broadway, Bennett hopes Broadway's program is two years away from being a typical Broadway championship program.
That's because Broadway's undermanned Aggies fell behind early, but battled back to give Bennett's defending Big South Champion Chanticleers a tussle in a 31-14 Coastal Carolina win. His other reason is because the Chanticleers will give the Aggies a return game next season in Conway, S.C.
"They're going to give us a heckuva game next year," said Bennett. "You're talking about a man who is well respected in the coaching profession when you look at what he did at North Carolina Central and Grambling. He was playing with half of his scholarships today, and look at how tough they played us."
The combination of quarterback Aramis Hillary and receiver Matt Hazel gave the Aggies trouble all afternoon. Hillary threw for 255 yards and three touchdowns, while Hazel caught six passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns. They helped Chanticleers score the game's first 24 points.
But it was the Chanticleers special teams that spearheaded their final scoring drive of the first half. A blocked punt by Dushawn Davis gave the Chanticleers a short field. Travis Smalls completed a six-play, 43-yard drive by scoring on a 3-yard touchdown to give Coastal a 17-0 halftime lead.
Out of the locker room, Coastal scored again as Hillary found Marcus Whitener out of the backfield for a 10-yard touchdown pass.
"We knew what they wanted to do on offense, we just couldn't get off the field on third down," said D'Vonte Grant, N.C. A&T's sophomore linebacker who had a career-best 12 tackles on Saturday. "We gave them a short field a couple of times and that really hurt us too."
The Aggies didn't need a short field for their next drive. They answered the Chanticleers opening drive of the second half by putting together an impressive 17-play, 76-yard drive that devoured eight minutes off the clock. It ended with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Lewis Kindle to Miles.
Good fortune kept coming the Aggies way as a Skyler Thomas' punt bounced off the head of a Coastal player and was recovered by Travis Crosby at the Coastal 20-yard line. Four plays later, Kindle scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak to cut the Chanticleers lead to 10 with 9:05 remaining in the game.
"If we are operating at full capacity, we probably win this game," said Broadway. "But right now we're not good enough to win a game like this. We don't have the bodies to win a game like this. I must say, our kids are fighting hard."
Hillary followed with the biggest play of the game. On a 2nd-and-15 from the Coastal 13, he completed a pass to Adrian Sullivan in the flats. Sullivan turned the short pass into a 54-yard gain. On the next play, Hillary hooked up with Hazel again, this time for a 33-yard touchdown pass.
"If we don't score there, we're in big trouble," said Bennett. "We needed to come up with some big plays, and we did."
N.C. A&T still had a chance to make it interesting. The Aggies were able to start their next drive at the 50 thanks to consecutive unsportsmanlike penalties on the Chanticleers. The Aggies moved the ball to the Chanticleer 40, but went no further.
Coastal improved to 3-1 on the season. The Aggies dropped to 1-2 as they head into their first conference game of the season at Morgan State on Oct. 1 at 4 p.m.
When asked would the Aggies/Chanticleers rivalry go beyond 2012, Bennett responded: "Probably not."