GREENSBORO – After the Aggies’ 42-17 Greatest Homecoming On Earth win over Florida A&M Saturday afternoon at Aggie Stadium, there were so many sentimental statements uttered by North Carolina A&T head football coach Rod Broadway about the 17 seniors who have had such an impact on turning around a dormant program, Broadway had to remind himself and those around him of something important.
“Wait a minute, they’re not done yet. We still have some games to play,” Broadway said.
But after the 11th-ranked Aggies (7-1, 5-0 MEAC) won their sixth straight homecoming, it was hard not to get a little choked up. The Aggies were in the midst of a seven-game homecoming losing streak when Broadway arrived in 2011. They had no recruiting class in 2011 and signed only seven in 2012 because of reduction in scholarships due to a low graduation rate that occurred prior to Broadway’s tenure. Yet over Broadway’s first two seasons, the Aggies still managed to go 12-10. Now they’re chasing their third straight MEAC title, their second straight black college football national championship and they are still in contention for a second straight Celebration Bowl appearance.
“Man, you’ll get me crying in here,” said Broadway talking about the journey he and his players have taken. “I am going to say it again; these guys are special. This is really the first class we had. You see what scholarships do for you. It gives you an opportunity to get some players.”
Those players, some of them seniors now, certainly meant a lot to the Aggies on Saturday as well. Senior All-American Tarik Cohen, a NCAA FCS Player of the Year candidate, had 145 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries. It marked the eighth time in his career he has had a three-touchdown game, and it was his third such game this season. Cohen added 65 yards receiving to his totals. [easyazon_infoblock align=”right” cart=”y” identifier=”B00IUCJI3A” locale=”US” tag=”hbcusports-20″]
Senior Denzel Keyes had 38 yards receiving on five receptions. Fifth-year senior Tyree Andrews made his first start at free safety and had a team-leading six tackles. Fifth-year defensive lineman and All-MEAC performer Marquis Ragland had three solo tackles and a tackle for loss, while senior right tackle Wes Cole, the reigning MEAC Offensive Lineman of the Week, continued to truck defenders.
The future doesn’t look bad either. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Lamar Raynard was 20-for-27 through the air, threw one touchdown pass, two interceptions and had 230 yards passing. Freshman Elijah Bell caught a 25-yard touchdown pass, junior Amos Williams rushed for 58 yards on six carries and redshirt sophomore Marquell Cartwright had 46 yards rushing and a touchdown on seven carries. Defensively, redshirt junior Marcus Albert tied Andrews for the team lead in tackles.
But the Rattlers (3-6, 3-3 MEAC) were not willing to concede anything to the No. 1 team in black college football. The Rattlers took a 10-7 lead over the Aggies with 9:21 remaining in the second quarter thanks to a 20-yard field goal by Colby Blanton. By the end of the second half, however, the Aggies had regained control of the game.
Cohen started the shift in momentum with one of his signature change of direction runs where he started left and reversed field to the right. After coming back right it looked like he was going to be forced out of bounds at the FAMU 5-yard line, so he leaped and extended his body toward the pylon for a spectacular 19-yard touchdown run. Bell followed with his touchdown grab to give the Aggies a 21-10 halftime lead.
When N.C. A&T was done answering FAMU’s second-quarter field goal, they had rattled off 35 unanswered points with the addition of a 1-yard run from Cartwright, an 83-yard run from Cohen and a 20-yard run from Demetrius Fairley.
The Rattlers were led by receiver Montavious Williams who had eight receptions for 98 yards. The Aggies outrushed the Rattlers 313-77 and compiled 543 yards of offense.
“It feels good to win all four of your homecomings, but this one is bittersweet,” said Ragland. “I love this program and coach Broadway, my favorite coach ever. It always feels good to get a ‘W’, but this one feels really good.”
But like Broadway mentioned earlier, there is still worked to be done. The Aggies will celebrate Senior Day for 17 men who turned the Aggies fortunes in a positive direction when MEAC-title contender S.C. State (3-4, 3-1 MEAC) comes to Aggie Stadium next Saturday at 1 p.m. The Aggies then go on the road to face Delaware State on Nov. 12 at 2 p.m., before facing archrival North Carolina Central live on ESPN3 at 2 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 19 at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium in Durham.
Still, what’s wrong with a little reminiscing.
“Let me say this too, we won five games my first year with our hands tied behind our backs,” said Broadway. “We didn’t have spring practice, we didn’t have our full practice time and only had 29 scholarships. When I think back, I am proud of those kids. They fought through it and helped us get this thing going in the right direction. They deserve a lot of credit. They set the stage on how we wanted to go about doing things, and I am proud of them.”
Courtesy: NCA&T Athletics