Aggies rout Hampton 31-9
By Jovan Hubbard
Students and alumni alike filed in early to support their Aggies in the Division 1-FCS game against Hampton. This televised Thursday night matchup was a “Gold Night” game where the crowd was encouraged to sport gold attire to match that of the schools colors. However, many of the students could be seen on ESPN wearing all black attire in light of the Black Lives Matter movement.
N.C. A&T was unable to capitalize on a 19 yard run by Tarik Cohen on the first play of the game. The drive stalled and the Aggies were forced to punt. The Hampton offense was never given a chance to take the field though, as the would-be returner lost the ball on a muffed catch, which was recovered by the Aggies deep in Pirates territory.
On the very next play, quarterback Lamar Raynard hooked up with wide receiver Denzel Keyes in the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown. This TD marked a milestone in Keyes’ career as he tied Craig Thompson’s career record of 19 touchdowns at N.C. A&T. With so much time left in the season, there is almost a guarantee that he surpasses this mark with ease.
However, for Keyes, the good news was accompanied by some bad news. Late in the 2nd quarter, the 6’4” receiver was injured while blocking on a screen play. “It was a bubble play and the play sort of fell on me,” said Keyes, “My ankle rolled.” Keyes wasn’t able to return to the game. When asked about the chances of him missing a game, Keyes quickly dispelled any idea that his ankle would hold him back. “Not a chance that I’ll miss a game.” He confidently explained. “I’ll be fine. Once the swelling goes down, I can resume practice and I’ll be ready for our next game.”
The flow of offense remained slow for both teams. At first, the teams seemed to be stalemate. At the half, the Aggies lead the Pirates 10-3. Both teams were 1 for 2 on field goal attempts.
In the second half, the Hampton University offense seemed to be more focused as on the opening drive, they methodically moved down the field and deep into N.C. A&T territory. The drive seemed promising until Aggie linebacker Jeremy Taylor came up with a big interception. The interception was returned for 0 yards.
This ignited the energetic home crowd to cheer their Aggies all the way down the field to a touchdown – a 15-yard run made by Tarik Cohen. Hampton never recovered, losing all momentum from then on, including throwing another interception on the following drive – Marquis Willis returned 6 yards – followed by an unsuccessful attempt to convert on fourth down.
Cohen, the Star senior from Bunn N.C. caught fire in the second half. He was the only Aggie to get into the end zone following the early score, and he did plenty of it. The running back rushed for 256 yards, 9.8 YPC and 3 touchdowns including one 94-yarder late in the game that broke the schools previous 88-yard TD record. “It was just another day at the office,” said the levelheaded Cohen. “I was just trying to stay in bounds and keep the clock running. I saw opportunities, so I took them.”
In the process of scoring the 3 touchdowns the senior also broke the record for career rushing touchdowns by any N.C. A&T running back.
The bright-eyed sophomore, Lamar Raynard, also had a positive impact on the game. Though his only touchdown came in the first quarter to Denzel Keyes, he put up 173 yards and took care of the ball as he finished with no interceptions. “I just want to keep leading the offense one play at a time,” said Raynard. The humble quarterback admitted that he is still “building a rapport” and learning from his teammates as he heads the powerful Aggie offense.
The Aggies gave up a late touchdown to the Pirates, but the extra point was missed, leaving the final score 31-9. N.C. A&T’s multifaceted offense and stout defense proved too much for Hampton as they advanced to 4-1 with 1-0 Conf. play.
The Aggies will have yet another conference home game in their “Blue Night” match up against the Spartans of Norfolk State. Thursday’s night MEAC game will air on ESPNU at 7:30 p.m. ET.