GREENSBORO – North Carolina A&T’s defense took a stand. Tarik Cohen made a move.
And freshman quarterback Hasaan Klugh improved his overall play.
It all equated to A&T earning a 31-14 bounce-back win over Hampton Thursday night at Aggie Stadium in front of a national-television audience watching on ESPNU.
The Aggies (5-2, 2-1 MEAC) snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Pirates (1-5, 0-2 MEAC), beating the Pirates for the first time since 2003.
Cohen followed up his 299 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns against the Pirates last season with 236 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns on Thursday night as he finished with 155 yards rushing and 81 yards receiving.
Klugh was also steady. He threw for 167 yards and a touchdown on 13-for-17 passing.
“He grew up some tonight, and we tried to be creative and help him,” said A&T head coach Rod Broadway about his freshman quarterback. “We didn’t want to put him into too many pressure situations where head to make big throws. We tried to get the ball in the hands of our playmakers out in the open field and give them a chance to make some plays. I thought Hasaan really handle himself well and handled the situation well.”
The Aggies came into the game with some circumstances stacked against them. Not only were they starting a freshman quarterback, but they were coming off their first shutout loss in two years after S.C. State won a huge MEAC game in Atlanta last week.
In addition, A&T came into Thursday night’s game with only two days to prepare for a Hampton team that was off last week.
Add to that the motivation Hampton head coach Connell Maynor had coming back to play against his alma mater A&T, and the Aggies were facing an uphill climb.
Things got even steeper when the Aggies went into the locker room trailing 14-7. “I’m proud of our coaching staff and our players for being able to win a game on such a short preparation week,” said Broadway.
The Aggies also made some preparations at halftime.
They opened the second half by putting together an 18-play, 92-yard drive that took more than seven minutes off the clock. A&T converted three third downs on the drive as freshman running back Marquell Cartwright scored ran into the end zone from two yards out to help the Aggies tie the game at 14.
Hampton looked poised to respond.
Twenty-yard and 11-yard Jaylian Williams completions helped the Pirates advance to the Aggies 41-yard line. But on 4th-and-2, A&T nose guard Marquis Ragland stuffed Williams on a quarterback sneak to give the Aggies a 1st-and-10 from the 40.
Cohen then flipped the game in A&T’s favor when on the next play he made two Pirates miss and made jolting cut toward the middle of the field to score on a 60-yard touchdown run to give A&T its first lead of the game. It was Cohen’s fifth run of 40 yards or more this season.
On the Aggies’ next drive, wide receiver Desmond Lawrence scored a 68-yard reverse to put the Aggies up two touchdowns.
Outside linebacker Lorenz Suttles put the Pirates away by sacking Williams and forcing the ball out of his grasp.
Freshman linebacker Joshua Patrick recovered the ball at the A&T 35 with 8:24 remaining in the game.
“Actually in the first half they faked a punt on us and took it down to the 6 and got seven there,” said Broadway. “Then the other score they got was on a bad punt and they got the ball at our 45 and scored. We didn’t do too much of anything differently (in the second half) other than play and execute and get the ball into the end zone.”
Hampton did open up Thursday’s scoring with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Williamson to Twarn Mixson after the Pirates punter Christian Faber-Kinney rushed for 32 yards on a fake punt to the Aggies 8.
Cohen put the Aggies on the board for the first time when he caught a swing pass from Klugh and scored on a 68-yard touchdown reception.
Marquis Boyan led the Aggies with eight solo tackles, while Ragland had the key fourth down stop, eight tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.