Updated at 11:45 p.m. Thursday

GREENSBORO — It was coming apart at the seams, a good football team still reeling from an upset loss Saturday unraveling before our eyes Thursday night.

And then, suddenly, it wasn’t. Suddenly, all was well.

A&T became A&T again, and the Aggies rallied, reeling off 28 unanswered points for a 31-16 victory over South Carolina State in a made-for-TV game at BB&T Field.

“It began with running the football,” A&T coach Sam Washington said. “That was the difference.”

Senior running back Marquell Cartright finished with 18 carries for 157 bruising yards. Struggling quarterback Lamar Raynard bounced back, going 19-for-27 passing for 253 yards and three touchdowns. And the defense held S.C. State to 3-for-14 on third-down conversions.

“If you can run the ball on a team, man, then you’re hard to stop,” Cartwright said. “If you can establish the run game, it establishes the offense. And that opens up the passing game. We expected to pound the ball, pound the ball, pound the ball. Then get a few pops in the passing game.”

The comeback was astonishing, and hard to believe after the way this game began, as the Aggies stumbled through the first half.

A&T players were bickering on the sidelines, coaches and cooler heads stepping between teammates arguing with teammates, making them shake hands and go in opposite directions.

The No. 12/13 Aggies (4-1, 1-0 MEAC), fresh off the open wound of a loss to a team that came in winless, trailed winless S.C. State (0-4, 0-1) 16-3 late in the second quarter, victims of their own mistakes.

Costly penalties. Ugly turnovers. Awful — truly dreadful — special teams play on punt returns that led to both S.C. State touchdowns.

Washington had warned his dejected team Saturday: Don’t let the devil in the locker room. Stick together.

It looked like the warning went unheeded for 28 minutes Thursday.

“There was a lot of frustration,” Washington said. “That’s exactly what I was concerned with. And that’s exactly what I told (one player) when I addressed him on the sideline, that’s exactly what he did: He allowed the devil in.”

Then suddenly, enough was enough.

In the final minute of the first half, the Aggies found themselves. They ran four plays right at the teeth of the S.C. State defense.

It worked. A&T went 84 yards in those four plays, all of them runs. Cartwright for 26 yards. Cartright for 10 more. Raynard on an 8-yard designed run. Then a 40-yard touchdown burst by speedster Jah-Maine Martin, who finished with 92 rushing yards on 11 carries.

Players on the A&T sideline jumped and screamed and embraced as Martin broke into the S.C. State secondary. The finger-pointing was over. The team was back.

“I knew then. I knew we were back,” Cartwright said. “We got it going at the end of the first half, and when we started the second half, it was time to step on the gas.”

S.C. State still led 16-10, but it was over. Because after the stunning drive, the energized Aggies got the ball to start the third quarter.

A holding penalty on the second-half kickoff return put the ball at the A&T 6. No matter. The Aggies drove 94 yards in seven plays, scoring when Raynard hit wide receiver Zach Leslie on 9-yard touchdown pass.

A&T rolled from there, scoring 28 unanswered points, finishing with touchdown drives covering 58 and 78 yards.

Raynard finished those with a 7-yard TD pass to Ron Hunt on a slant pattern, then a 44-yard TD on third-and-forever, a throw that traveled a good 55 yards in the air before Malik Wilson caught it in the end zone.

“The running game opened up the passing game,” Washington said. “There was no pressure for (Raynard) to make a play. He didn’t have to do it all himself. That generally makes you a little more accurate, a little better as a passer.”

On a night the Aggies nearly tore themselves asunder, a night when a season hung in the balance, instead they kicked the devil out of their locker room and found themselves.


Posted at 10:30 p.m. Thursday

GREENSBORO — It was coming apart at the seams, a good football team still reeling from an upset loss Saturday unraveling before our eyes Thursday night.

And then, suddenly, it wasn’t.

Suddenly, all was well.

N.C. A&T became A&T again, and the Aggies rallied, reeling off 28 unanswered points for a 31-16 victory over South Carolina State in a made-for-TV game at BB&T Stadium.

Struggling quarterback Lamar Raynard bounced back, going 19-for-27 passing for 253 yards and three touchdowns. Senior running back Marquell Cartright finished with 18 carries for 157 bruising yards. And the defense held S.C. State to 3 for 14 on third-down conversions.

It was astonishing, and hard to believe after the way this game began, as the Aggies stumbled through the first half.

A&T players were bickering on the sidelines, coaches and cooler heads stepping between teammates arguing with teammates, making them shake hands and go in opposite directions.

The No. 12/13 Aggies (4-1, 1-0 MEAC), fresh off the open wound of a loss to a team that came in winless, trailed winless S.C. State (0-4, 0-1) 16-3 late in the second quarter, victims of their own mistakes.

Costly penalties. Ugly turnovers. Awful — truly dreadful — special teams play on punt returns that set up both S.C. State touchdowns.

First-year head coach Sam Washington had warned his dejected team Saturday: Don’t let the devil in the locker room. Stick together.

It looked like the warning went unheeded for 28 minutes Thursday. Then suddenly, enough was enough.

In the final minute of the first half, the Aggies found themselves. They ran four plays right at the teeth of the S.C. State defense.

It worked. A&T went 84 yards in those four plays, all of them runs. Cartright for 26 yards. Cartright for 10 more. Raynard on an 8-yard designed run. Then a 40-yard touchdown burst by speedster Jah-Maine Martin, who finished with 92 rushing yards on 11 carries.

Players on the A&T sideline jumped and screamed and embraced as Martin broke into the S.C. State secondary. The finger-pointing was over. The team was back.

S.C. State still led 16-10, but it was over. Because after the stunning drive, energized A&T got the ball to start the second half.

A holding penalty on the kickoff return put the ball at the A&T 6. No matter. The Aggies drove 94 yards in seven plays, scoring when Raynard hit wide receiver Zach Leslie on 9-yard touchdown pass.

A&T rolled from there, scoring 28 unanswered points, finishing with touchdown drives covering 58 and 78 yards.

Raynard finished those with a 7-yard TD pass to Ron Hunt on a slant pattern, then a 44-yard TD on third-and-forever, a throw that traveled a good 55 yards in the air before Malik Wilson caught it in the end zone.

On a night the Aggies nearly tore themselves asunder, a night when a season hung in the balance, instead they kicked the devil out of their locker room and found themselves.

Keep up with all the latest on NC A&T athletics, from analysis to features and lots more Aggies news you won’t find anywhere else.

Contact Jeff Mills at (336) 373-7024, and follow @JeffMillsNR on Twitter.

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