GREENSBORO (September 16, 2017) – Whether it is Boone in 2013 or Kent, Ohio in 2016 or the North Carolina A&T football team’s latest conquest in Charlotte on Saturday night, the North Carolina A&T football team has become adept at going on the road and winning games conventional wisdom says they cannot win.
The Aggies (No. 20 FCS Coaches Poll/No. 25 STATS Media Poll) defeated Division I-FBS and Conference-USA member Charlotte, 35-31, behind a game-winning pick-6 from redshirt freshman Franklin “Mac” McCain III in front of a record-crowd 18,651 at Jerry Richardson Stadium.
It was McCain’s second interception of the game, both leading to touchdowns. The Aggies are now 3-0 for the first time since 2013. In the process, they defeated an FBS for the second straight season (FBS schools are awarded approximately 20 more scholarship equivalents than the FCS level, the level N.C. A&T plays on). N.C. A&T also won at Appalachian State in 2013 when the Mountaineers were making the transition to FBS and last season they won at Kent State.
“For our little ragtag bunch from Greensboro to come over here and play with the big boys and come out with a win is a big deal,” said N.C. A&T head coach Rod Broadway who earned his 50th coaching win at N.C. A&T, making him only the fourth coach in school history with 50 wins at the university. He joined William Bell (51 wins, 1946-56), Bert Piggot (55 wins, 1957-67) and Bill Hayes (106 wins, 1988-2002).
“I thought we really had a chance to distance ourselves a little bit scoring wise at one point,” Broadway continued. “But you have to give them credit, they hung in there and made us earn everything we got.”
N.C. A&T took its biggest lead of the game, 28-10 with 9:33 remaining in the third quarter, thanks to a 1-yard touchdown from redshirt junior Marquell Cartwright. Cartwright’s touchdown was set up by a 22-yard interception return to the 49ers 10-yard line by McCain. The Aggies maintained that advantage until the tail end of the third quarter when the 49ers took only 1:24 to go six plays in 63 yards to score on a 29-yard touchdown pass from former Aggies quarterback Hasaan Klugh to T.L. Ford II as the clock ticked zero to end the quarter.
“That’s the area of the game that really sticks out in my mind,” said Broadway. “We hardly used up any time, and they get the ball with two minutes to go in the quarter and go score. We still have a whole quarter left. We should have been able to take the clock down to 14, 13 minutes left to go in the fourth quarter, so we’ve got to manage the clock and little bit better than we did over the last few minutes of the third quarter.”
The Aggies opened the fourth quarter by advancing the ball to the Niners 42, but they were forced to punt, giving the Niners the ball at their own 10 with 10:27 remaining in the game. The Niners (0-3) kept their momentum going by putting together a 12-play, 90-yard drive that ended with Klugh completing a 4-yard touchdown pass to R.J. Tyler. The Niners converted the two-point conversion to slice the Aggies lead to 28-25 with 6:12 to play in the game.
After taking possession, the Aggies did take 3:48 off the clock before having to punt, giving the Niners possession at their own 16. Six plays later, on a 4th-and-10 from the Charlotte 31, Klugh slipped through the Aggies defense for a 15-yard run. He fumbled toward the end of the run, but it was recovered by teammate Uriah Lemay for a first down. Klugh then completed a 13-yard pass to Lemay to advance the ball to the Aggies 44.
But on the next play, McCain anticipated the sideline throw from Klugh and picked off his pass for a 74-yard INT TD return to give the Aggies a 35-25 lead with 29 seconds remaining.
“I saw the three-step (drop) coming. I trusted what I saw on film and my technique and made a play. It felt good because it’s my first time really getting out there,” said McCain who redshirted last season.
Amazingly, Charlotte scored again on a 44-yard touchdown pass from Klugh to Workpeh Kofa with 13 seconds remaining. But the Niners ensuing on-side kick went out of bounds to end their comeback efforts.
N.C. A&T redshirt junior quarterback Lamar Raynard led the Aggies offensively by throwing for 259 yards and a touchdown on 16-for-26 passing. In addition to his two picks, McCain also had eight tackles. Fifth-year linebacker Marcus Albert led the Aggies with nine tackles and a sack. Justin Cates finished with three sacks.
Saturday did not start well for the Aggies. They fumbled the opening kickoff which led to a 14-yard touchdown run by Klugh. N.C. A&T recovered by scoring the next 21 points as they took a 21-10 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“We did enough to win, but you can see a lot of areas of improvement we can make from this point on,” said Broadway. “We’re a good football team, and if we can stay healthy we have a chance to be a really good football team. But we’ve got to clean some things up. Overall, I’m extremely proud of my guys.”
Conference play starts for the Aggies next week as they travel to Baltimore to face the Morgan State Bears, Saturday, Sept. 23 at 7 p.m.