NORFOLK, Va. – Giving up 31 points at Hampton last week didn’t sit well with the North Carolina A&T defense. Therefore, they returned to the Tidewater area on Saturday for a little redemption and got it. The Aggies surrendered just 167 yards of offense to Norfolk State in a 27-3 win over the Spartans at William “Dick” Price Stadium.
N.C. A&T’s strong defense helped head coach Rod Broadway earn his 100th career coaching victory, making him only the 26th active FCS coach with 100 wins. He is just the fourth active HBCU coach to earn the feat.
“I don’t have a whole lot to say about that,” said Broadway about his 100th win. “It just means I’ve had good coaches and good players. I’m proud of the players on this team for just winning this game tonight.”
Broadway’s players have given the Aggie faithful much to be proud of thus far this season. The Aggies (4-1, 2-0 MEAC) completed a string of four straight games on the road with their win over NSU (2-4, 2-1 MEAC). In that stretch the Aggies went an impressive 3-1 with their only loss coming to the University of North Carolina, an FBS school. In two of those games – at Elon and at NSU – the Aggies gave up a combined total of 10 points.
For the second straight week, the road Aggies also took advantage of excellent field position. N.C. A&T started four drives in NSU territory with two of those occasions happening early in the game when the Aggies gained possession on two consecutive drives with a fumble recovery by Zerius Lockhart and a short punt that allowed them to open their possession at the NSU 23-yard line.
The Aggies took a 10-0 halftime lead off a 30-yard field goal by junior Cody Jones. The Spartans had minus-8 yards rushing in the first half.
“We felt like we played poorly last week and the offense carried us,” fifth-year middle linebacker Denzel Jones said about the Hampton game. “Coming into this week we didn't feel like that should happen. We go into every game figuring only a touchdown or a field goal will decide the game, so we try not to give up any points.”
Even though that was not the case on Saturday, where the Spartans ventured inside the Aggies 25 only twice, resulting in a missed field goal and a 28-yard make by Cameron Marouf. The Aggies also sacked NSU quarterback Greg Hankerson seven times.
“We wanted to contain the quarterback,” said Broadway. “He can make some plays with his feet. We let him out of there a few times in the first half, but for the most part I think we contained him halfway decent. He's a heckuva athlete.”
Senior running back Tarik Cohen provided the offensive might for the Aggies with 152 yards rushing and a touchdown on 36 carries. His 6-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Denzel Keyes gave the Aggies a 24-3 lead in the third quarter.
“He’s special,” said Broadway about Cohen who is now 503 yards away from becoming the Aggies all-time leading rusher. “Everybody is gunning for him. What is hurting Tarik is we lost four of our top five receivers. But Raynard is throwing the ball a lot better now, so it should open up some things for him down the stretch.”
But Cohen said it was the Aggies defense that drove the momentum against the Spartans.
“It makes us confidence to have a defense like ours because we know if we getting going offensively, the game is pretty much over,” said Cohen.
The other motivating factor is the being the focus of opponents’ game plans.
“That's what keeps me striving to be the best,” he said. “I know I need to be a playmaker for my team. Even though people know I was preseason player of the year and I'm supposed to have a target on my back, I still have to step up and make plays.”
The Aggies return home next week to face Bethune-Cookman who is 3-0 in the conference. Kickoff is at 1 p.m., at Aggie Stadium.