Our Own Worst Enemy

By Craig R. Turner
Published: November 16, 2013

Losing to Morgan State last week 24-23 in another nail biter of a game for the second year in a row and for the third time this year, one recurring theme is consistent evident in all of those losses – penalties in the red zone.

Nothing was ever more frustrating than to see A&T have a momentum crushing touchdown taken off of the board for a holding penalty in the second quarter and then travel three time inside the ten-yard line and have holding penalties force the Aggies to kick three field goals.

If A&T had punched just one of those primo chances in for six points, Morgan would have been done. Instead, A&T managed to snatch defeat out of the mouth of victory with motion calls, unnecessary holding away from the play, and just plain poor execution along the offensive front.

As I watched South Carolina State crush Morgan last night on ESPN, the same basic scenario took place in that game. What was the difference? The Bulldogs executed and punched those red zone opportunities in for touchdowns and that game was soon completely in hand just six minutes into the second half.

It really does not matter whether it has been missed communication, over aggressiveness, forcing passes into triple coverage or not reading the proper keys in their blocking assignments that have A&T in this red zone funk
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If the Aggies are to salvage this season and end up with a third straight winning season, everyone from coaches to the ball boys must step up the mental aspect of their game and put teams away when the occasion arises. Developing the knock out instinct means that everyone has to be on the same page and that was not the case in the fourth quarter of last week’s game. The right play calls were made in the game for the most part but somewhere between making those decisions in the press box to what transpired on the field, something gets lost in the transition.

So which A&T team will be playing this week? There were some injuries to some seniors this past week, and some new faces will see a lot more playing time tomorrow than fans are have used been used to. If the concentration and red zone execution does not improve dramatically in these next two games and quickly, getting that third straight winning season will be hard to come by.

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Savannah State comes into Aggie Stadium today and although they may be 1-10, the Tigers are not a bad football team. They have played folks relatively well despite having a complete coaching staff change midway through the late spring after school and spring practice had concluded.

They have some good athletes and offensively will challenge the Aggie defense so it is imperative that A&T control the line of scrimmage on offense and run the football while taking a shot or two downfield when the opportunity arises.

Freshman tailback Tarik Cohen can do something tomorrow that only three other players have ever done in the history of the MEAC and which has never been done at N.C. A&T , that is having a true freshman break the 1,000 yard mark in rushing. He’s stands just a paltry 75 yards from putting his name into the record books.

If you have not had a chance to see “The Kid” play this season and you plan to come to the game this afternoon, you are in for a treat. Cohen is one of those special players that come along about one every ten or fifteen years.

He’s tiny for a college tailback at 5-7, 170. While his listed size is perhaps being a bit generous, but he carries the ball 25-35 times each week and just seems to get quicker, faster, and stronger the more he carries the ball during a game. He has it all – speed, change of direction, allusiveness, soft hands out of the backfield, and simply explosive acceleration from a dead stop. It will be interesting to see what he can do against a SSU rushing defense that ranks almost dead last in the conference.

For those folks who got caught with CIAA championship tickets and no game to attend because of unprecedented fight during a pregame football banquet let me make a suggestion.

So go ahead and get your refund and then make the 20-minute ride over to Greensboro to catch the Aggies and Mr. Cohen as they try to clinch their third winning season in a row for the first time since 2001. Besides the halftime show with the famed Blue and Gold Marching Machine will be far better than anything you would have seen in Winston Salem and well worth the trip.

PREDICTION:

N.C. A&T – 28
SSU – 7