NORFOLK, Va. – The North Carolina A&T football team finds themselves in peculiar position after improving to 9-0 overall with a 35-7 win over Norfolk State Saturday at William “Dick” Price Stadium.
The Aggies are making large amounts of history in 2017, but with so much more history remaining to be made this season, they find themselves slightly tempered about the unprecedented accomplishments they have already achieved.
The win over Norfolk State makes the 2017 N.C. A&T Aggies the only football team in the 93-year history of Aggie football to have a 9-0 record. This year’s senior class is the only senior class in school history to put together four consecutive nine-win seasons. Individually, junior quarterback Lamar Raynard broke the Aggies single-season passing record. He eclipsed Maseo Bolin’s 23-year old record on a 24-yard completion to graduate tight end Trey Scott in the third quarter.
Bolin’s mark stood at 2,262 yards. With at least two games remaining, Raynard has 2,302 yards passing. Head coach Rod Broadway got to into the act as well. The win gave him 56 wins as the Aggies head man, moving him past former head coaches Bert Piggott (1957-67) and Hornsby Howell (1968-76) for second on the Aggies all-time wins list behind Bill Hayes’ 106 (1988-2002).
But will all that recorded, there is still next week.
“It’s special, but it’s not quite good enough,” said Broadway. “We’ve got to go 10-0. “Nine-and-oh is special, but when you’re chasing excellence that’s a different ballgame. And I’m talking about going 11-0, I’m talking about the we way play. I want to see us play closer to our potential level than we do at times.
There are times out there when we look really good, and there are times out there when we’re not really sharp. But we’re 9-0. Even at our worst we’re 9-0.”
N.C. A&T, who improved to 6-0 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference to remain in first place, was crisp early. On their first possession of the game, they went 65 yards in 10 plays as Raynard was 4-for-4 on a drive that culminated with Raynard running in from 1-yard out to give the Aggies a 7-0 lead. The Aggies remaining first-half offensive possessions, however, resulted in a missed field goal, a punt and an interception.
Help came in the form of North Carolina A&T’s defense. The Aggies ‘D’ held the Spartans to minus-4 yards rushing for the game. Senior Jeremy Taylor’s second-quarter interception return for touchdown gave the Aggies a 14-0 advantage. Taylor saw the receiver freshman Mac McCain was covering cut inside, therefore, he figured the receiver he was covering was going go in the opposite direction, so he jumped the route.
Taylor’s instincts were right as he returned the throw from NSU freshman quarterback Juwan Carter 47 yards for the Aggies fifth defensive touchdown of the season. “The quarterback didn’t see me breaking in on (the receiver). It came right to me.”
Carter did bounce back. He completed passes of 26 and 22 and was aided by a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on N.C. A&T that allowed his team to move the ball to the Aggies 4-yard line for a first-and-goal. Three plays later Carter found freshman receiver Isaiah Winstead for an 8-yard TD pass to cut the Aggies lead to 14-7 with 3:03 remaining in the first half.
“If these guys could see what type of football team we could have if we stopped the slow play, the dumb plays and the penalties, we could have a good football team,” said Broadway. “We’re close now. But we’ve got to take some giant steps as far as penalties go (N.C. A&T had nine for the game). First half was sloppy, we didn’t play like we are capable. Second half, we really got going. if we could play like that all the time, we would be really good.”
A dominant second-half defensive performance that saw the Aggies hold NSU to just 45 yards of offense was complemented by three more 1-yard touchdowns by the offense. Raynard had the first. After leading the Aggies 83 yards on 14 plays on the opening drive of the second half, he finished it off with a 1-yard quarterback sneak. Raynard was 6-for-10 passing on the drive for 62 yards.
An interception by senior free safety Jamaal Darden led to the Aggies second, second-half 1-yard TD. Darden returned his pick 23 yards to the NSU 45. Junior running back Marquell Cartwright then rumbled and spun his way down to the 1. He finished off by barreling in for a 28-7 Aggies lead with 6:37 remaining in the third quarter. Graduate running back Jamari Smith finished off the 1-yard scoring with 12:43 remaining in the game. His 1-yard run was set up by his 15-yard reception on a 2nd-and-13 from the NSU 35.
Cartwright and Smith combined for 167 yards rushing with Cartwright posting his fourth career 100-yard game with 104 on 17 carries. Raynard’s record-breaking day saw him go for 277 yards and two interceptions on 22-for-31 passing. He failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time since Sept. 10, 2016 at Kent State. It was a streak of 15 straight games, and what makes his streak even more impressive is that he didn’t finish the Kent State game.
N.C. A&T also completed their road schedule 6-0, breaking a school record for road wins in a season. But again, with all that recorded, there is still next week versus Savannah State at Aggie Stadium at 1 p.m.
“Being 9-0 is great, but we can’t get complacent,” said Taylor. ‘We’ve got another game and that’s next week, so that has to be our main focus.”
Courtesy: NCA&T Athletics