GREENSBORO - There is no better way to spend your first Greatest Homecoming On Earth than being the biggest difference in the game.
Freshman quarterback Kwashaun Quick replaced North Carolina A&T starter Lewis Kindle to open the second half, and led the Aggies to a 30-9 win over Norfolk State at Aggie Stadium. It is the first time A&T has won consecutive homecomings since 2000 and 2001. Quick, who started the first game of the season in place of a suspended Kindle, used his legs to baffle NSU's defense in front of a homecoming crowd of 20,356.
Quick rushed for 68 yards on seven carries. Twenty-nine of those yards came on a touchdown run on the Aggies' first drive of the second half.
"He changed the tempo of the game for us," said North Carolina A&T head coach Rod Broadway about Quick's performance. "He showed something out there. He kept plays alive and made plays for us. He was the difference."
It was not a banner day for either offense when it came to protecting the football. There were a combined 10 turnovers in the game. Norfolk State came into the game as one of the most turnover-prone teams in the nation. Three of A&T's four turnovers were first-half interceptions by Kindle. With the veteran quarterback struggling, and the Aggies offense looking for its first touchdown in six quarters, Broadway made the switch.
"Quick needed a chance to play," Broadway said. "We just needed to protect the football a little better. You go through some streaks sometimes when you don't play your best. When you're in a slump like that and you're turning the ball over like that, then we need to give someone else a chance. Looking back on it now, it was a good decision. (Quick) responded and played well."
Kindle was supportive of Quick in the second half, according to Quick. Quick quickly helped the Aggies overcome a 9-7 halftime deficit as he put together runs of eight and nine yards to help the Aggies advance to the NSU 29-yard line. On 2nd-and-1, Quick ran a read-option play where he held the ball close to running back Mike Mayhew's abs until he saw the NSU defender commit to tackle Mayhew.
Quick then pulled the ball away and kept it himself. He ran through a few NSU tacklers and sprinted to the end zone to give A&T a 14-9 lead.
While the Aggies (4-4, 2-3 MEAC) went turnover free in the second half, the Spartans continued to have turnover issues. The Aggies expanded their lead after NSU running back Takeem Hedgeman fumbled a pitch at his own 19. Linebacker Brandon Hover recovered, setting up a 19-yard touchdown run by junior running back Ricky Lewis. Lewis led the Aggies with 81 yards on 18 carries.
The score provided the A&T defense with the cushion it needed. The Aggies allowed the Spartans only one first down in the second half and five for the game.
"Our coaches preached it all week," said A&T cornerback Ayodeji Olatoye, who had a fumble recovery and an interception on Saturday. "They were going to give us a few (turnovers), so we were actually looking for them to turn it over. Our coaches told us we had to be ready to capitalize when they got sloppy with the ball."
Ten minutes into the second quarter the Aggies trailed 6-0. NSU kicker Everett Goldberg lined up to kick his fourth field goal of the half, a 47-yarder. But the wind stopped the kick's momentum, making it fall short and into the hands of the dangerous D'Vonte Graham. Graham took the short kick and returned it 100 yards for the Aggies' first score.
"That was a big play," Broadway said. "That got us going. We had the right guy back there at the right time."
The Spartans (2-7, 0-6 MEAC) also had a few quarterback issues of their own. Four different men - Jake Basmagian (starter), Nico Flores, Pierre Narcisse and Brendon Riddick (wildcat quarterback) - lined up at quarterback for NSU Saturday afternoon. The quarterback rotation led to four interceptions.
Broadway was non-committal on his quarterback situation for next week. The second-year A&T head coach would only say that he goes into every ballgame looking to do things better whether it's dealing with personnel or schemes. Kindle and Quick will come into the week doing what they always do, compete for the starting job.
"I go out every week and tell Lewis I'm going to challenge him," Quick said. "We compete at everything. We compete on every throw."
The Aggies will host Florida A&M 1:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 3 at Aggie Stadium.