|COURTESY NORTH CAROLINA A&T STATE UNIVERSITY ATHLETICS|
KENT, OHIO – Depth was supposed to be an issue for North Carolina A&T, the school with fewer allotted scholarships. Instead it was an asset for the Aggies and “a what just happened here?” moment for Kent State.
Saturday night at Dix Stadium, the Aggies looked down their depth chart and placed fifth-year quarterback Oluwafemi Bamiro, a third stringer out of Washington, D.C., into a highly-contested game. Bamiro responded by completing 7 of 14 passes for 95 yards, no interceptions and two touchdowns including the game-winning TD toss to Denzel Keyes to lead the Aggies to a 39-36 quadruple overtime victory over Division I-FBS Kent State.
The game did not end until after midnight following a two-hour delay to the start of the game because of lighting. The win over Kent State is the Aggies first over an FBS program which typically have more financial resources and are allotted 85 scholarships versus 63 on the FCS level. The Aggies had lost to their previous three FBS opponents by an average of 39.7.
Tarik Cohen had an enormous day, rushing for 133 yards and a touchdown to go along with nine receptions for 125 yards. Defensively, junior linebacker Jeremy Taylor was ferocious. He had 15 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks, two pass break ups, an interception and he forced and recovered a fumble.
“This is big for the program, the athletics department and the school as a whole,” said N.C. A&T head coach Rod Broadway. “To do it in four overtimes is really something because I thought they would eventually wear us down because of their scholarship advantage. Give our defense credit, they held them to a field goal, and so we were able to get out of here with that touchdown.”
N.C. A&T (2-0) did not allow the Golden Flashes (0-2) a single yard on their first drive of the fourth overtime. Therefore, the Flashes had to settle for a 42-yard Shane Hynes field goal to take a 36-33 lead.
Hynes’ kick set up a scenario where the Aggies if the Aggies scored on a field goal on their next drive the game would go into a fifth overtime. But if the Aggies scored a touchdown, they would pull off one of the biggest upsets in school history. The drive did not start well.
Senior running back Tarik Cohen lost six yards on first down. On second down, Bamiro lofted a pass in the air toward freshman receiver Elijah Bell which led to a jump ball situation between Bell and KSU defensive back Darryl Marshall. As both men jumped for the ball and came down empty handed, a flag fell to the ground along with Bell, Marshall and the football. It was ruled Marshall impeded Bell’s path to the ball, giving the Aggies a 1st-and-10 at the KSU 15-yard line.
Two players later, Keyes stretched out his 6-foot-4 body to swipe Bamiro’s pass out of the air while at the same time shielding off defender Will Matthews for the 15-yard game-winning touchdown. Broadway said the playcall was simple.
“In critical times around here we think players and not plays,” said Broadway. “(Denzel) is one our better players, so sometimes you’ve just got to get the ball to a player you trust will make a play. Denzel is one of those guys we believe in.”
The win adds to Broadway's collection of huge wins as the Aggies head coach. In 2013, he took his Aggies to Boone, N.C., an upset then perennial Division I-FCS power Appalachian State 24-21. Last season, he led the Aggies to 10 wins, a MEAC title, the black college national championship and a win in the inaugural Celebration Bowl game. In order to get this big win, Broadway had to believe in Bamiro after sophomore Kylil Carter left with an injury and redshirt sophomore starter Lamar Raynard was taken out of the game. Broadway’s belief in Bamiro was a long journey.
Bamiro came to Aggieland in 2012 as a quarterback before being moved to tight end in 2014. After the departure of one of the Aggie quarterbacks, Bamiro was moved back to quarterback. Last week against St. Augustine’s, he threw his first career touchdown. Now here he was with the Aggies trailing 17-10 to an FBS opponent the Aggies have a chance to beat with 10:05 remaining in regulations.
It was a mixed beginning for Bamiro. Cohen opened the drive with a 25-yard run, followed by a 5-yard Bamiro completion to Bell. Bamiro then had runs of 15 and 5 before Cohen popped off a 33-yard touchdown run that was called back for holding. An illegal formation penalty and a sack put Bamiro and the Aggies in a 3rd-and-20 situation.
No problem, Bamiro simply found a wide open Cohen for a 39-yard completion to the KSU 5. Three plays later the Aggies benefited from a pass interference call to keep the drive going and give the Aggies a 1st-and-goal from the 2. Cohen pushed the ball across for a touchdown to tie the game at 17 with 5:40 to play. The Flashes would drive the ball to the Aggies 38 before a deep ball from KSU quarterback Mylik Mitchell landed in the hands of Taylor in the back of the end zone, essentially forcing the overtime thriller.
“We got down to our third guy and he stepped up for us,” said Broadway about Bamiro. “You know what, we are surrounded by some pretty good players. Femi made enough good plays for us to win. We’re going to take it and move on.”
The Aggies will move one after overcoming a 10-0 halftime deficit to force the overtime. N.C. A&T has another FBS opponent next week as they will travel to Tulsa to face Tulsa University at 2 p.m., eastern time.
NORTH CAROLINA A&T STATE UNIVERSITY SPORTS INFORMATION