GREENSBORO – Rod Broadway likes to joke that when he took over the head football coaching duties at North Carolina A&T three years ago, Aggie supporters often told him all they wanted him to do was win homecoming and beat N.C. Central.
If that is indeed the case, then Broadway should be in everyone’s good graces. After winning his third straight homecoming game earlier this season, Broadway saw his defense score twice while holding N.C. Central to 148 yards of offense in Saturday’s 28-0 win at Aggie Stadium. Broadway is now 3-0 against the Eagles.
Saturday marked the first the Aggies have held the Eagles scoreless since winning 25-0 in Raleigh in 2003 when Broadway was the head coach for NCCU. It was also the first time in 13 years the Aggies have shutout a conference opponent.
“I’m pleased with 7-4, but we’re not satisfied because we had a chance of having a big year,” said Broadway. “It just wasn’t quite in the cards for us this year, so we’re going to go back to work Monday and we’re going to see if we can go about building a championship program.”
Broadway and his staff will begin that work without the 20 seniors they honored on Saturday. It is a senior class that attended A&T despite the school coming off of back-to-back winless seasons. In the end, they put together back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in 12 years.
“The thing that’s so impressive about our group of guys is that for two years now we haven’t had a spring practice,” said Broadway. “Time has been cut, as far as practice time, and scholarships. For these guys to win seven ballgames back-to-back I think we’re moving in the right direction as a program, and I’m proud of our seniors and our coaching staff for a job well done.”
The future does look promising for the Aggies. Freshman running back Tarik Cohen had another solid day with 125 yards on 31 carries. Linebacker D’Vonte Grant had another solid game and season. His 13 tackles on Saturday gave him 102 on the season for the team lead. He also intercepted a pass and his fumble return for a touchdown gave the Aggies a 28-0 lead early in the fourth quarter. It was the fourth time in his career that he has returned a turnover for a touchdown.
“This guy was a walk-on, and he’s one of the best if not the best linebacker in this conference,” said Broadway. “This guy just makes play after play for us. His leadership has gotten better and his ball skills have gotten better. When he’s not making big plays, he’s playing sound and solid.”
The start of the day did belong to the Aggie seniors, however. After Cohen fumbled on the Aggies’ opening possession of the game, the Eagles took over at the A&T 25-yard line. After moving the ball to the 4, Eagles kicker Oleg Parent missed a 21-yard field goal. That was too bad for NCCU because the Aggies dominated from there. A&T took the ball and drove it 65 yards in 12 plays as senior quarterback Lewis Kindle scored on a 1-yard keeper.
Another A&T senior, running back Ricky Lewis, scored the Aggies second touchdown as he took a pitch from Kindle and scored from 1-yard out. It was score was set up by a 20-yard completion to Dequan Swann who was tackled out of bounds at the NCCU 1. Senior Brian Houston then took his turn in the senior spotlight. On NCCU’s ensuing possession, Houston intercepted a Jordan Reid pass and returned it 30 yards for his second pick-6 of the season as A&T took a 21-0 lead into the half. Houston also finished with 13 tackles on Saturday, which gave him 100 for the season.
“We’ve played fairly good defense all year, and we’ve had a couple breakdowns here and there, but we’ve been pretty consistent on defense and played pretty well. Shutting them out was big,” said Broadway.
Now Broadway wants to take the next step beyond just winning the homecoming and N.C. Central games.
The Aggies will get their spring practice back after coming out of NCAA sanctions because of a low graduation rate. He has some big names to replace. His entire secondary led by All-MEAC standouts Travis Crosby and D’Vonte Graham is leaving. Durable defensive end Tyree Hearn is also gone along with starting offensive linemen Timothy Sunkins, Danye Gorrell and Nathan Isles. There will also be a new starting quarterback in Aggieland next season.
“I think we’re moving in the right direction,” Broadway said. We’re out of penalty phase and next year we get all of our time back which is big. I know the season just ended, but I am so looking forward to spring practice. I really am. I’m anxious to see how these guys develop, and train some of these guys.”