KENNESAW, Ga – North Carolina A&T failed to score a point for the first time in seven years. Thirteenth-ranked Kennesaw State held the Aggies to just 21 yards rushing in a 14-0 win over at Fifth Third Bank Stadium.
The Aggies had gone 70 straight games without being shut out. The last time it happened, the Aggies were ironically in Atlanta, where they lost to S.C. State 13-0 at the old Georgia Dome.
A&T had their opportunities despite the Owls solid defensive play. The Aggies had an excellent opening drive. They converted 4 of 5 third downs, and Jalen Fowler completed 4 of 7 passes for 58 yards, including a 32-yard completion to Zach Leslie
After moving the ball 67 yards over 16 plays, the Aggies called on the ordinarily reliable placekicker Andrew Brown to give them a 3-0 lead. But with a swirling wind throughout the stadium, Brown, the reigning two-time Big South Conference special teams player of the week, missed to the right.
The Aggies defense gave the A&T another opportunity to score in the second quarter when defensive lineman Karfa Kaba recovered a fumble by KSU quarterback Xavier Shepherd at the KSU 44.
Aided by a KSU unsportsmanlike penalty, the Aggies moved the ball to the 19. But Brown missed from 36 yards.
Meanwhile, the Owls capitalized on fourth downs and good field position. The Owls converted all five of the fourth downs they attempted on Saturday night. That includes a 4th-and-2 from the Aggies 40 in the second quarter as Shepherd looked stopped at first on the quarterback keeper before he lounged forward for the first down.
Shepherd then completed a 34-yard pass to running back Irving Smith before running it in from three yards out to give KSU a 7-0 lead.
“No one has stopped them on 4th-and-1 all season,” said Washington about the Owls, who are fifth in the nation in fourth-down conversions. They are 100 percent, so that didn’t start with us tonight. It’s a part of their offense. It’s what the triple option does.”
KSU’s second score was scored thanks partly to good field position, which the Owls seemed to have throughout the second half. After a 37-yard punt from Mike Rivers, the Owls took over at the Aggies 44. Another completion from Shepherd to Smith, this one for 29 yards, set up a 1-yard TD run by Shepherd to give the Owls a 14-0 lead.
The Aggies had one more chance to score. The Aggies went 11 plays in 66 yards, and it had the ball 4th-and-1 from the KSU 14. A&T rushed to the line to run a quarterback sneak. With teammate Bhayshul Tuten pushing him from behind, it appeared Fowler had the yard he needed.
Instead, the play led to a measurement that showed the Aggies about four inches shy of a first down. Replay officials upheld the call, giving the Owls a 1st-and-10 with 6:16 remaining in the game.
“I thought we had it,” said Washington. “We wanted to challenge it, but the official said when didn’t have to. It was disappointing.’
The Owls secured three first downs on the drive to run out the clock.
Courtesy: North Carolina A&T Athletics