Anytime you bring the best of the best together under one roof something special is going to happen, that was indeed the case for the inaugural Celebration Bowl held in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The game featured the best in HBCU Football. The North Caroling A&T Aggies champions of the MEAC against the Alcorn State Braves champions of the SWAC. The house was full of Gold, as that was a common color shared by the schools. Aggie faithful wore blue and gold while the Braves wore purple and gold. The gold sparkled all throughout the stands to the tone of 35,528 cheering fans. And was there a lot to cheer for! Big plays filled with the action of long distance punt returns, high flying action catches, fake field goals, acrobatic interceptions, and 70 plus yard touchdown runs.
Bang, bang, bang the scoring started on the first punt of the game with Khris Gardin dashing for 74 yards to the stripe. Then Alcorn answered with Anthony Williams taking the next punt for 84 yards. They botched the extra point making the score 6-7 at the 10-minute mark. NC A&T felt the score was a little too close for comfort so he unleashed a missile named Tarik Cohen who wanted his on 74-yard touchdown. If that wasn’t enough, four minutes later, he tore off another big time run scoring on an 83-yard blast. At the end of the first quarter, Cohen had 5 carries for 166 yards and 2 touchdowns. The score was 21-6 in favor of the Aggies. The place was rocking with excitement as the bands played tunes that made your body move. For a moment it made me feel like lacing them up then reality hit, perhaps I would make it to the 50-yard line before running out of gas.
That’s the difference when you attend an HBCU football game to some the entertainment starts at half time with the bands. Well-choreographed routines, fancy footwork, the drums, and horn section play like they are the main attraction at a concert. Halftime should be renamed ShowTime. The fans remain in their seats trying not to go to the restroom until the beginning of the third quarter.
There were only two scores in the second quarter Cody Jones kicked a 45-yard field goal for NC A&T and Aaron Baker caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Lenorris Footman for Alcorn State making the score a respectable (13) NC A&T – (24) Alcorn State at the half.
In the second half, it wasn’t as much action but it was filled with drama like a well-written script. Alcorn State came back scoring two touchdowns to tie the game in the fourth quarter using a little trickery where the receiver threw it to the quarterback. Then there was a fake field goal that was successfully converted.
Then it was Cohen Time after a little hesitation move he went right up the seam for 73 yards to the house thrilling the crowd. Alcorn State wasn’t finished they got down to the 9-yard line at the .13 second mark but came up short. North Carolina A&T had a total of 543 yards. Cohen carried the ball 22 times for 295 yards and 3 touchdowns to earn MVP as his team North Carolina A&T win this thriller 41-34.
About the Game
This year, to a little backlash the MEAC and the SWAC champions, decided to forego playing in the FCS Playoffs and play for the Historically Black College and University National Championship. The game hadn’t been played since the Heritage Bowl which ended in 1999.
I don’t know how the organizers pulled this off but they did an excellent job of picking the time slot and set the game to kick off the bowl season. Frankly, the game makes perfect sense to me it gives small colleges national exposure on ESPN the World Wide Leader in Sports in between the major bowl games and College Football Playoffs with a $1 Million Dollar Purse to each conference. The script could not have been written any better for the Inaugural Armed Forces Celebration Bowl. In this game, the score wasn’t that important because neither team won or lost because Historically Black College Football Won.