EAST GREENSBORO – North Carolina A&T football is a run-first team, according to head coach Sam Washington. After all, with the running backs this program has been able to produce, is that a surprise.
But on Thursday night and throughout the season, the Aggies are showing the rest of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) there are multiple ways they can beat you.
N.C. A&T got another stellar game from junior running back Jah-Maine Martin and the Aggies defense delivered its second shutout in its last six games played in a 37-0 win over Delaware State Thursday night at BB&T Stadium. The win marks the seventh straight season the Aggies have won their MEAC opener.
After rushing for 299 yards and two touchdowns two weeks ago, Martin finished with 108 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 14 carries. His four-touchdown performance is the second-highest single-game total in school history tying Maurice Hicks’ four-touchdown outing against S.C. State in 2000.
“He did his job and he did his job well,” said Washington about Martin’s performance. “But I thought the offensive line did a helluva job of getting to the second level which allowed (Martin) to make cuts and hit it. The receivers did a great job of cutting down the third level guy. It was no one-man show.”
The Aggies first two touchdowns were due to the Aggies second-level blocking. Martin went off-tackle for a 24-yard touchdown run in the first quarter for a 7-0 Aggies lead. On his second touchdown, he busted up the middle for a 28-yard touchdown and a 14-0 N.C. A&T advantage.
Not only was the Aggies (3-1, 1-0 MEAC) running game effective, but they threw the ball well against the Hornets (1-3, 0-2 MEAC). Graduate quarterback Kylil Carter had another game without an interception as he completed 16 of his 27 pass attempts for 167 yards and a touchdown.
Carter’s one touchdown pass came as junior Korey Banks flashed across the middle to catch Carter’s pass in the end zone for a 21-0 lead. Carter also completed a 28-yard pass to Banks that Banks dove for and caught at the DSU 1-yard line setting up Martin’s third TD run of the day for a 28-0 halftime lead.
Senior Elijah Bell caught nine of Carter’s passes for 101 yards. Bell’s outstanding night helped him tie the school record for receptions. There are now three men at the top in Bell, Herbert Harbison and Wallace Miles with 172. It was Bell’s seventh career 100-yard receiving game.
“He is just a special young man,” said Washington. “He is not selfish, that’s what I like about him most. He’s a team guy. It’s very easy for someone with his capabilities or his status to be an “I” guy. I’m very proud that he is not. He is a young man you love to be around.”
As impressive as the Aggies offensive accomplishments were, the Aggies defense was just as astounding. DSU never penetrated Aggies territory the entire game. The Hornets were held to 100 yards of offense and 23 yards rushing. It was the Aggies 10th shutout since Washington became a part of the Aggies program as the defensive coordinator in 2011. It was the 21st time N.C. A&T has held an opponent without a touchdown since 2011.
Sophomore Jermaine McDaniel led the way with six tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. N.C. A&T’s defense got a boost Thursday with the return of All-American cornerback Mac McCain III. McCain missed the first three games as he recovered from a season-ending knee injury from the 2018 season.
“I think his return helped the secondary the most,” said Washington. “I think it motivates our defense just knowing his presence is there. He’s that guy who can play man-to-man by himself and that’s very valuable.”
Earlier in the week, Washington said the Aggies focused on the fundamentals with the team’s defensive backs. They were getting beat over the top too much according to the second-year head coach. They didn’t get beat over the top against the Hornets and they broke up three passes.
N.C. A&T’s defense added a safety for good measure. Before the safety, Martin closed out the offensive scoring with a 33-yard touchdown run where he appeared to be wrapped up and tackled before breaking through for his ninth run of 20 yards or more this season.
The Aggies will return to action 2 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 5 at Norfolk State. Their next home game is not until Oct. 26 when the Aggies return to BB&T Stadium for the Greatest Homecoming On Earth at 1 p.m.