A&T starts slow but finishes strong to beat SCSUSemaj Marsh, Peacemaker Sports / October 5, 2018
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With a sense of panic engulfing his sideline and a once-promising season seemingly on the brink of collapse, A&T head coach Sam Washington knew it was time for his team to reclaim their blue-color identity.
Trailing 16-3 at home last Thursday night (Sept. 27) to a winless South Carolina State team, the Aggies decided to get back to the basics and establish their ground attack.
Starting the drive at their own 16-yard line and with just under 90 seconds remaining in the half, A&T reeled off four straight running plays that caught the Bulldogs’ prevent defense by surprise. The drive was eventually capped with a 40-yard touchdown by sophomore running back Jah-Maine Martin to help the Aggies draw to within 16-10 at the break.
That momentum swing would carry over to the second half as A&T eventually scored 28 unanswered points to pull away from South Carolina State for a 31-16 comeback victory in front of a crowd of 11,530 at BB&T Stadium.“We had less than two minutes to get it done so that’s what made it a beauty,” said Washington about that decisive drive. “I’m thinking we don’t have to do anything supernatural, let’s just run the football. We knew they were going to spread out and play either four quarters or two-deep. That means I’ve got five to block five, so let’s give Cartwright a chance. It played out perfectly. They gave us the same look every time.”
The victory improved the Aggies’ record to 4-1 on the season and 1-0 in the MEAC. This win also helped exorcise the demons from the 16-13 loss to Morgan State just five days prior.
At the start of this contest, however, it appeared that A&T might be still suffering a hangover from that shocking defeat.
In the first half, A&T botched two punts – one by Kashon Bake that was recovered at the A&T 20 yard line led to SCSU’s first touchdown and another by Derrek Williams that was recovered in the end zone to make the score 13-3.
At one point, after SCSU’s Dillon Bredson connected on a 27-yard field goal, two A&T defensive players got into a shoving match on the field which spilled over to the Aggies’ sideline.
“That’s frustration. It was all based on frustration,” said Washington. “Kids let off energy in different ways. Not just kids, but people. We probably yelled at them when we possibly shouldn’t have. But that frustration sets in, and it happens.”
Ultimately, the remedy for Aggies’ frustration would come in the form of a reinvigorated running game which accounted for 311 total yards.
Senior running back Marquell Cartwright recorded his seventh career 100-yard game by rushing for 157 yards on 18 carries. Martin added 92 yards on the ground and a touchdown on 11 carries.“I thought coming in if we can get a hat on a hat, they can’t play with us,” said Washington afterwards. “Sometimes you can get too creative instead of playing fundamental, hard-nosed football. We have to be able to understand our identity and stick to our identity. That’s running the football.”
Senior quarterback Lamar Raynard, who had one of the worst performances of his career in the loss to Morgan State, rebounded nicely against the Bulldogs, throwing for a season-high 253 yards and three touchdowns.
In the second half alone, he completed 9-of-11 passes including a 9-yard touchdown pass to Zach Leslie, a 7-yard scoring strike to Run Hunt and a beautiful 44-yard bomb to Malik Wilson in the back of the end zone.
Defensively, A&T held the Bulldogs’ offense to just 187 total yards. The Aggies have now surrendered just two defensive touchdowns over the last three games.
Next up for the Aggies is a road trip this Saturday to face a winless Delaware State team who is coming off a 54-28 loss to Norfolk State.
Washington is confident his club won’t be overlooking the Hornets or anyone else for that matter, after surviving last week’s scare against the South Carolina State.
“We needed (that) win in the worst way. In the absolute worst way,” said Washington. “This was a make-or-break game for us. Our season — everything, really — hung on this one.”