Red zone problems? What red zone problems?
Carolina A&T turned a perceived weakness into a gigantic strength. A week after throwing two red zone interceptions
and missing a 19-yard field goal, the Aggies scored all four times it made an
appearance inside the Howard Bison red zone on Saturday afternoon.
A&T offense was complemented by an A&T defense that intercepted three
passes and returned two for touchdowns as the Aggies handed the Bison its first
conference loss of the season with a 38-10 win in MEAC football action at Aggie
Travis Crosby and his 13 tackles led an Aggies defense that was able to shut
out the Bison (4-2, 3-1 MEAC) in the second half. On the offensive end, senior
running back Mike Mayhew finished with a season-high 138 yards rushing and one
touchdown on 20 carries. In the process, he became just the 12th
back in MEAC history to rush for more than 3,000 yards in a career. Mayhew is
now 11th on the MEAC's all-time rushing list with 3,056 yards.
"We needed to
go at these guys," A&T head coach Rod Broadway said. "We needed to run
downhill, and when Mike is running downhill, he's something. He has great feet
and great balance and pretty good vision. Now that he has taken a lot of that
dancing out of his running, he's playing a lot better. He's hitting the line of
scrimmage a little better, and I think he is starting to see the results."
ball into Mayhew's hands was just one of the ways the Aggies remedied their red
zone issues. On several occasions, the Aggies ran the option with quarterback
Lewis Kindle and Mayhew. Backup running back Ricky Lewis was utilized more in
the offense as he scored the Aggies' first touchdown on an 18-yard touchdown
used a version of the wildcat formation inside the red zone, where the ball was
directly snapped to Mayhew. The formation helped Mayhew score a 3-yard
touchdown that gave the Aggies a 14-7 lead toward the end of the first quarter.
"We put in
the package so we can get some scores when we're on the goal line," Mayhew said,
adding that the team ran the formation on a limited basis last season.
"This is the
first time we started doing it this year," he continued. "I love being able to
get the ball immediately in my hand. It opens up thing faster, and coming from
the backfield, it gives you time to see things develop. I can hit the hole
faster when the ball comes directly to me."
Even with all
the new wrinkles added to the offense over the past week, the most important
element that made the Aggies' red zone offense better on Saturday was the
protection of the football. A&T did not turn the ball over on Saturday,
while benefiting from three Bison turnovers.
cornerback D'Vonte Graham led the thievery. He intercepted two passes and returned
the latter 58 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
"I was glad
they started throwing my way," Graham said. "That usually doesn't happen. Once
I figured out they were throwing my way, I started jumping routes. It paid off
in the end. I love making big plays because it lifts the team's morale. To see
everyone jumping up and down on the sideline after you make a big play, it just
builds our momentum, and makes us want to go out and get another one."
described Graham as "a player."
something isn't he?" Broadway asked rhetorically. "He's a playmaker. We need
about 82 more like him and we'll be okay."
Howard used a
15-play, 63-yard drive to close to within 14-10 at halftime as Parker Munoz
connected on a 37-yard field goal with 30 seconds remaining in the half. Whatever
momentum Howard had going into the locker room, it did not rollover into the
second half. Howard's first offensive possession was a 3-and-out, which led to
Graham, the playmaker, returning John Fleck's punt 77 yards to the Bison 6.
penalty moved the ball back to the 21, which led to a Zach Cimaglia 31-yard
field goal. A&T began to put the game away as Howard's next possession was
also disastrous. On a 2nd-and-22, A&T defensive end Tyree Hearn
slammed into Howard quarterback Greg McGhee as McGhee tried to pass.
The hit led
to the ball being popped up in the air. Junior linebacker D'Vonte Grant landed
under the floater and returned it 40 yards for a 24-10 A&T lead.
amazing is, we're a pretty good defensive team despite being so undersized,"
Broadway said. "We're playing with 220-pound defensive ends. Our biggest inside
guy is 260 pounds, so for those guys to hold up like they do, I'm proud of
need a strong defense against a resurgent Delaware State team. The Hornets
improved to 2-1 in the MEAC with a win over S.C. State on Saturday. It will be
homecoming for the Hornets as they host A&T this Saturday at 1 p.m.
"This is just
one guy's opinion," Broadway said. "Howard is good. Bethune-Cookman is good.
Delaware State is good. They may be three of the top teams in the league right
now with the way they're playing. We're close to being able to play with some
of those teams, but we're not quite good enough to win the close ones yet. Once
we start doing that, we can be mentioned in that top of the line group."