ATLANTA – The 26th edition of the Atlanta Football Classic will go down as a game that does not need a lot of analysis. The S.C. State Bulldogs dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball to come away with a 13-0 win over the Aggies Saturday evening in the Georgia Dome.
The Aggies (4-2, 1-1 MEAC), who have now lost 13 of their last 14 games to the Bulldogs (4-2, 2-0 MEAC), rushed for just 43 yards. On the flip side, the Bulldogs had 197 yards rushing led by Jalen Simmons’ 95 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries.
“We got our butts kick on the offensive and defensive lines,” said A&T head Rod Broadway. “When you let them rush for 197 yards and then we rush for 43 on our end, this is the result you get.”
Both teams had trouble moving the ball in the first half, but the Bulldogs had a difference maker. For the second straight season, the game pretty much turned on a blocked punt.
A bad snap on a 3rd-and-10 lost the Aggies 15 yards back to their own 11-yard line toward the end of the first quarter.
Sophomore punter Codie Jones then had his punt blocked in the end zone by Kory Brown and recovered at the 7 by S.C. State’s Dayshaw Taylor.
Three plays later, Simmons scored from three yards out to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 second-quarter lead.
“In our losses in big games like this, two things have happened consistently – we don’t do a good job of protecting the punter and we give up big plays,” said Broadway. “We had a punt blocked down here last year. We can’t do those things in big ballgames and expect to be a good football team.”
Brown’s block would prove to be a pivotal play as the Aggies offense mounted a legitimate scoring threat only once on Saturday. A&T was playing without starting quarterback Kwashaun Quick who was injured in last week’s win at Howard.
True freshman Hasaan Klugh got the start instead and finished the day 14-for-27 with one interception and 113 yards passing. Running back Tarik Cohen had just 49 yards rushing on 21 carries, and the Aggies turned the ball over three times.
“I feel like anyone else would feel who had to play without their starting quarterback,” said Broadway. “It’s hard playing without your starter.
But we have to go back and try to come up with a plan that will help him be more successful.”
A&T’s offense was fortunate enough to get the ball at or near the 50-yard line six times in the game. But the Aggies got inside the SCSU 30 just twice, one of those times came on the last play of the first half. When the Aggies reached the SCSU 25 in third quarter, a bad pitch on an option play moved the team back 10 yards and brought up a 4th-and-13.
“It was a catch 22 for us because they were so strong upfront and their linebackers ran to the ball well,” said Broadway about trying to get something going on offense. “We thought the weakest link was their secondary, but we never got a chance to see because they were so good upfront.”
The Bulldogs put the game away in the fourth quarter as Chris Pauling intercepted a Klugh pass with 8:50 remaining in the game. S.C. State put together a 13-play drive that took more than six minutes off the clock.
It ended with a 1-yard quarterback sneak from Adrian Kollock Jr., to put the Bulldogs up two scores.
“We are not quite good enough,” said Broadway. “We started with a new quarterback, a freshman, and couldn’t quite get the job done. We didn’t get in anything out of our offense, so we have to figure out a way to be more productive. We also gave up almost 200 yards rushing the ball. That’s not what we do around here.”
Linebacker D’Vonte Grant was named team MVP for the Aggies after he finished with 13 tackles and a forced fumble.
Landis Shoffner also had 13 tackles and added an interception. The Aggies were shutout for the first time since losing 24-0 to Delaware State on Oct. 20, 2012.