DURHAM -- The North Carolina A&T defense played well. The Aggie-Eagle Classic was another classic, and there was a sellout crowd at O'Kelly-Riddick Stadium.
So for a game where many of the storylines went as expected, there sure were a lot of unexpected occurrences in the 84th meeting between the North Carolina A&T and N.C. Central football teams. The Aggies came away with a heart-pounding 22-16 overtime win over the Eagles in a game that included two blocked field goals, a blocked punt, missed extra points and numerous bad snaps.
Most of the bad snaps came from the Eagles side of the ball as their shotgun snaps were a part of six fumbles and three lost fumbles. Their snapping problem came to a head in overtime as the Eagles lined up for a 3rd-and-inches from the A&T 18-yard line. Eagles center Zachary Giles snapped the ball over the head of quarterback Jordan Reid, which led to a 24-yard loss.
A&T linebacker D'Vonte Grant broke up Reid's pass on fourth down, giving the Aggies (7-4, 5-3 MEAC) the victory after they scored first in overtime on a Mike Mayhew touchdown. A&T finished in a third-place tie in the MEAC with Delaware State and N.C. Central (6-5, 5-3 MEAC). The Aggies ended their season on a four-game winning streak.
"We could have put this thing somewhat out of a reach a long time ago," said A&T coach Rod Broadway. "But we just weren't good enough. We were good enough to win and that's the bottom line."
A&T had a 9-0 lead toward the end of the first half. With the way the Aggies defense played once again, that should have been enough to put the Eagles away. A&T's No. 2 FCS nationally ranked defense held the Eagles to just 122 yards of offense and minus-51 yards rushing, the lowest amount of yards every surrendered by an A&T defense. But there is more than just one phase of football. Freshman kicker Zach Cimaglia lined up for a 39-yard field goal attempt with 15 seconds remaining in the half, but had his kicked blocked by Malik Cromartie.
Delson McAdams scooped up the loose ball and ran it in from 71 yards out to give the Eagles life even though Oleg Parent missed the 35-yard extra point after a 15-yard sideline penalty on the Eagles.
"We were disappointed we weren't able to score there," said Broadway, who coached the Eagles from 2003-06. "We've got to get that part of the game fixed because that really set us back."
The Eagles were able to tie the game at 9 in the third quarter thanks to a 47-yard run by Arthur Goforth that set up a 41-yard field goal by Parent. Goforth's run was the longest run from scrimmage against the Aggies defense since Bethune-Cookman's Quentin Williams had a 41-yard run on Oct. 6.
Grant helped the Aggies regain the lead late in the third quarter as his blocked punt gave the Aggies the ball at the NCCU 2. Ricky Lewis scored his second touchdown of the game to give the Aggies a seven-pint edge.
Another bad snap by the Eagles looked to put the game back into A&T's control. Reid's fumble of a shotgun snap gave A&T the ball at the NCCU 23 when Tyree Hearn recovered the ball. It would lead to a 38-yard field goal attempt by Cimaglia that was blocked and scooped by Sayyid Muhammad. Muhammad appeared headed toward another Eagles score until holder Kwashaun Quick walked him down at the A&T 5.
It was a big play by Quick because three plays later, Reid threw an interception Ayodeji Olatoye at the 1. Controversy followed as the officials discussed whether Olatoye caught the ball at the 1 and ran back into the end zone for a safety. The Aggies eventually got the ball at their own 3, but had to punt it away from the 5, giving the Eagles excellent field position at the A&T 45.
Seven plays later, something happened that has not happened to the Aggies in 17 quarters - an offensive touchdown was scored. Reid connected with Lamar Scruggs on a 12-yard touchdown reception to tie the game at 16. The Aggies had gone 261 minutes, 31 seconds of game time without giving up an offensive touchdown to an opponent.
"We had a breakdown in the kicking game which gave them six points, and indirectly gave them seven more because they didn't score on the second one, but they got great field position," said Broadway.
Neither team could break through in regulations. A&T's best chance came with 21 seconds remaining in the game as they advanced the ball to the NCCU 28. But instead of attempting a third field goal, they went for it on 4th-and-1, but Mayhew was stopped short, sending the game into overtime.
A 20-yard pass completion in the first overtime set up a five-yard game-winning touchdown by Mayhew. A bad snap on the extra point led to an unsuccessful attempt which meant if the Eagles scored a touchdown and made the extra point, they would be victorious. But instead, the bad snap led to the A&T victory. Mayhew, the Aggies all-time leading rusher, finished his last collegiate game with 116 yards and a game-winning touchdown.
"I've been happy with the opportunity I got to play here," Mayhew said. "This has been a special place for me. Hopefully I can be as successful on the next level."