A&T Has Learned How To Win
GREENSBORO - The North Carolina A&T football team doesn't worry about style points. It concerns itself with results. The Aggies have won three straight games to guarantee themselves their first winning season in nine years.
All three games are evidence the Aggies have learned how to grind out and win close ballgames at home. Three weeks ago, the Aggies trailed 9-7 at halftime before their defense dominated Norfolk State, and the offense used an effective running game to earn a 30-9 win. Last week, in their 16-3 win over Florida A&M, the Aggies went without an offensive touchdown. But freshman kicker Zach Cimaglia kicked three field goals and junior linebacker D'Vonte Grant returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown.
Against the Bulldogs on Saturday, the Aggies again went on the grind. After the Bulldogs returned the opening kickoff 96 yards, the Aggies trailed for 3 ½ quarters. Then in a period of 16 seconds, they scored two touchdowns, one on a 34-yard run by Ricky Lewis, and the other on a 10-yard fumble return by D'Vonte Graham. A&T's defense, the second-best in the nation, has received the most credit, but A&T's offense seems to produce in crucial moments.
"I'm proud of the way our players hang in there and find ways to win ballgames," said A&T coach Rod Broadway. "It's not pretty, but it's a win. Our guys kept playing hard today, and they were rewarded for it during the back end of the ballgame because some things went our way. To be 6-4 at this point in the season is a great accomplishment for our players because they've worked their butts off this season."
THE STREAK: How good has the Aggies defense been this season? When Lewis scored on a 34-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, it marked the Aggies first offensive touchdown in seven quarters. Yet, the Aggies are on a three-game winning streak. That is because the A&T defense has not allowed an offensive touchdown in 14 quarters. It is a span of 3 ½ games.
"The guys have a lot of pride in how they're playing right now," said Broadway. "Our guys are being successful (on defense) because we understand where we're supposed to fit and fill. They know where to line up, and they have a clear understanding of what we want them to do."
SENIOR DAY: The Aggies honored 18 football players, three student managers and one student trainer as a part of its Senior Day celebration before the game. The football senior class overcame a 1-10 season in 2010 to post an 11-10 record over the last two seasons. They will also walk away with school's first winning record in nine seasons.
"This will be our legacy," said senior linebacker Makari Pugh.
Among the Aggies seniors are Mike Mayhew, the school's all-time leading rusher, and Chris Neal, a four-year starter on the Aggies defensive line. Pugh, Mayhew, Neal, Leroy Bradford, Jeremy Days, Brandon Hill, Brandon Young, Brandon Hover, Thomas Hearn, Tony Mashburn, Mark Newton, Jermarion Pegues, Donta Prince, Chris Andrews, Larry Raper, Devin Ray, Xavier Robinson and Armon White were the 18 players honored.
Student mangers Alicia Funderburk, Shannon Sellers and Shantel Wilkerson were also honored along with senior student trainer Kim Stratford.
HOME SWEET HOME: The Aggies are 10-2 at home under Broadway. The 6-4 Aggies have won all their games at home. Their last win on the road came on Oct. 1, 2011. They will try to end their seven-game road losing streak next week at N.C. Central. But for now, the Aggies are content with their success at home. Broadway has long had a reputation for getting his teams to play well at home. N.C. Central was 18-5 and Grambling was 15-0 under Broadway. As a head coach, Broadway is 43-7 at home.