|NC A&T escaped O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium with a 22-16 win over rival North Carolina Central on Saturday.|
North Carolina A&T’s 22-16 overtime win over rival North Carolina Central Saturday afternoon wasn’t the prettiest game, but it is definitely one Mike Mayhew won’t soon forget. Mayhew, who earlier this season became NC A&T’s leading all-time rusher, ran for 116 yards on 30 attempts. But it was his final carry as an Aggie that would propel his team to an overtime victory. The win gave the Aggies a 7-4 mark for the season, the team’s first winning record since 2003.
It also gave NC A&T head coach Rod Broadway his first win in O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium as an opposing coach. Broadway coached NCCU from 2003 to 2006.
“It’s another win, but it’s a big win,” he said after the game. “To finish up 7-4 with the shortcomings that we have, practice-wise and scholarship wise…my hats are off to our coaching staff and players.”
The game was everything that a fan could want out of a rivalry game, at least emotionally. Execution wise, the game left a lot to be desired as the teams combined for six turnovers, several blocked kicks and a safety.
“We tried to give it away,” Broadway said “but our guys stuck in their and found a way to win.”
A&T controlled largely controlled the first half, taking advantage of a safety via a bad snap in the first quarter and scoring on a three yard run by Ricky Lewis in the second quarter. The Eagles managed to score just before the half as homecoming hero Malik Cromartie blocked Zach Cimaglia’s kick and Delson McAdams returned the ball 71 yards for a touchdown. NCCU still trailed 9-6 at halftime, however, as Greg Parent missed the extra point.
The second half finished as a draw, largely because neither team was able to consistently secure the ball. With the score tied 9-9 late in the third quarter, NC A&T blocked a Matt Cornelius kick at the NCCU two-yard line and managed to punch it in on another Lewis touchdown run, taking a 16-9 lead.
NCCU responded with a 11 yard touchdown pass from Jordan Reid to Lamar Scruggs with just over 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Neither team would score again until Mayhew’s touchdown in overtime.
A botched two-point conversion attempt meant that a touchdown and an extra point would win the game for NCCU. With that in mind, Reid and his teammates prepared for a crucial 3rd and 1 at the 19 yard line. Unfortunately for the Eagles, the ball sailed over Reid’s head, forcing him to recover it before the Aggies did. The Eagles were forced to throw the ball on fourth-and-long and ultimately coming up short as Reid’s pass intended for Decona Roberts was incomplete.
“We made too many mistakes,” NCCU coach Henry Frazier said after the game. “You can’t make mistakes against a good football team.”
The win was the fourth in a row for the Aggies, and their first win away from Aggie Stadium. They will finish the season third in the MEAC, just behind Bethune-Cookman (9-2, 8-0) and Howard (7-4, 6-2) and just above NCCU. NCCU finishes with a 6-5 (5-3) record –not bad for a team that was picked to finish ninth in the 11-team conference.
While he wasn’t happy with the results or the officiating, Frazier said he was encouraged by his team’s performance this season and he thinks they’ll be even better next year.
“We stuck to our plan, which was to redshirt all of our freshmen and we were able to redshirt all but two,” he said. “Our program is going to be strong for years to come. I’m looking forward to 2014.”
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