DOVER, Del. – Delaware State scored a touchdown on the final play of its MEAC football game against North Carolina A&T.
Fortunately for the Aggies, they got a 30-point head start on the Hornets Saturday afternoon and came away with a key 33-20 conference win at Alumni Stadium. Unfortunately, the Hornets were able to score 20 fourth-quarter points thanks in large part to Aggie fumbles.
“We’re pleased with the win but we’ve got to play better,” said A&T head coach Rod Broadway, whose Aggies were able to spoil DSU’s homecoming. “We’ll take as many wins as we can get – ugly, pretty or whatever. To turn the ball over in the situations we turned over today gets you beat on most days. We’ve got to get that corrected.”
A&T (6-2, 3-1 MEAC) won in Dover, Del., for the first time since the 2002 season. The end of their five-game losing streak in Dover looked like a forgone conclusion in the first half when fifth-year linebacker D’Vonte Grant blitzed DSU quarterback Marlon Kelly and hurried him into making a bad throw that landed in the hands of redshirt sophomore defensive end Angelo Keyes. Keyes returned the pick-6 55 yards for a 24-0 lead.
“I was happy as can be. You don’t get that many opportunities to catch the ball with your hands at my positon,” said Keyes who secured his second interception of the season. “It felt great to see all of that open field ahead of me.”
Sophomore kicker Cody Jones added two field goals in the third quarter to put the Aggies in front 30-0.
The Hornets (2-6, 2-2 MEAC) used a 48-yard run from Jamaal Jackson and a pass interference penalty that gave the Hornets 1st-and-goal at the Aggies 2-yard line to set up their first score of the game. Lamar Shaw scored from two yards out to make it a 30-7 game with 9:15 remaining in the game.
It all seemed harmless until a bad exchange between A&T quarterback Hasaan Klugh and running back Tarik Cohen led to a fumble that Alex Perry recovered at the Aggies 14. DSU quarterback Gilbert Rivera connected with Milton Williams on the next play for a 14-yard touchdown reception that cut A&T’s lead to 30-14 with 9:11 to play.
Despite the setbacks, the Aggies still had a sizeable lead and were in position to put the game away when DSU punt returner Malik Golson muffed a Jones punt at the Hornets 29. Four plays later, Jones had his fourth field goal of the game, a 43-yarder 4:42 remaining.
“Making field goals are good I guess. But I’m hoping we can start scoring some more touchdowns,” said Broadway.
After the Hornets went three-and-out, the Aggies turned to Cohen to seal the win. He carried the ball five straight times with the clock winding down each time. But on a 2nd-and-9 from the Aggies 46, Klugh fumbled Ronald Canty’s snap from center, which resulted in the Aggies’ sixth fumble of the day, leading to the Hornets score in the final seconds.
“I thought our defense played lights out,” said Broadway. “Offensively we had some opportunities we didn’t capitalize on. We made a game that shouldn’t have been close, close. We got the ball deep in their territory four or five times and we fumbled four or five times. That’s unacceptable.”
All but one of Jones’ field goals came after the Aggies advanced the ball into the red zone. The Aggies also turned the ball over deep in DSU territory three times.
The Aggies defense caused four turnovers of its own and held the Hornets to 277 yards of offense. In addition to the four field goals, the Aggies special teams also scored a touchdown as Grant blocked a Jeremiah McGeough punt that Jerome Beatty recovered in the end zone for a 14-0 first-quarter lead.
A&T’s offense did have its bright moments. Cohen rushed for 144 yards and had five receptions. The Aggies took their opening drive of the game 93 yards in 12 plays to score a 4-yard touchdown by freshman Marquell Cartwright.
The Aggies are now tied for second in the conference with Norfolk State and Morgan State who were both winners on Saturday. The Aggies will host the Greatest Homecoming On Earth against Florida A&M, who is 2-1 in the MEAC, Saturday, Oct. 25 at 1 p.m.
“We’re missing our starting quarterback, we’re missing our punt returner and punter,” said Broadway. “We’re just trying to piece this thing together and survive from week to week. We don’t look at standings. We don’t look at what other teams are doing. I’m just trying to get our team to play as best we can week in and week out.”