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North Carolina A&T sophomore Tarik Cohen
breaking ankles and records on the gridiron

By Ewing Carter

The showdown between MEAC co-leaders Morgan State and North Carolina A&T and between diminutive league rushing leaders Herb Walker Jr. of MSU and Tarik Cohen of A&T Saturday in Greensboro never materialized as the Aggie defense shut out the Bears 45-0 and shut down Walker holding him to just 22 yards in 10 carries.

While Cohen was held to 56 yards on just seven carries with one 16-yard touchdown run, he did reach one milestone.    

With that output, the 5-7, 172-pound All-MEAC sophomore from Bunn, North Carolina went over the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the second year in a row. Last year, he was the first in A&T history to top 1,000 yards as a freshman and now he has added to that legacy.Tarik CohenTarik Cohen

After Saturday’s game, Cohen gave credit to his offensive line and to A&T running backs coach Shawn Gibbs for the success he has had.

“He’s been with me even before I started making plays,” Cohen said of Gibbs. “He told me that I could make them (plays) on this level, and he taught me a lot of things that help me make the plays that I do.”

Cohen’s success started early on in his career as an Aggie, where as a freshman he had a MEAC-leading 1,148 yards rushing on 195 carries and led the MEAC in average per carry (5.9). Despite not starting until the fifth game, he averaged a conference-leading 104.4 yards per game and was named MEAC rookie of the year along with many other accolades. This year, with 1,022 rushing yards and averaging 113.6 yards per game, he’s behind the 5-8, 180-pound Walker’s totals of 1,071 rushing yards and 119.0 yards per contest. He’s ahead of Walker averaging 6.2 yards per carry to Walker’s 6.1.

The two are the leading candidates for the MEAC Offensive Player of the Year award.

“Last year, the first couple games I was surprised when I started doing good, but now I’m not surprised. I expect to do this. I expect to make plays,” said Cohen.

And he’s made plenty .

He scored on an 80-yard run and rushed for 161 yards and two scores in the season-opener against Alabama A&M. He totaled 133 rushing yards and scored a touchdown in a close loss to nationally-ranked Coastal Carolina. He scored on a scintillating 81-yard jaunt en route to a season-high 234 rushing yards in a win over Elon. A knee injury vs. Elon caused him to miss most of the next two games and limited him in a third vs. South Carolina State. But he returned with a vengeance against Hampton, running for 161 yards and hitting paydirt on a breath-taking 60-yard run and a 68-yard screen pass. At Delaware State, he added another 144 rushing yards.

What Cohen lacks in size he makes up for in speed and agility. He says what separates him from other running backs and has helped with his success is his vision. He says he is able to find holes and read defenses.

While some have considered him a miniature Adrian Peterson because of his acceleration and ability to cut on a dime, he says he does not model his game around any NFL player but one of his favorite running backs is LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles because of his quickness and agility.

“I like him because of his quickness, but I’m faster than him. He doesn’t run a 4.3.” Cohen is a former North Carolina State A/AA champion sprinter in the 100 meters.

He says he doesn’t check his own stats because he does not want to know where he is now, he only wants to improve. He does however have some goals for the rest of his career that he has set for himself. At the rate he is progressing, they all seem obtainable.

“Continue getting 1,000 yards each season, set the MEAC career rushing record, and to get championships. I want more than one.”

Ewing Carter is a N. C. A&T student interning with AZEEZ Communications and the Black College Sports Page.


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