The 16th annual Cricket MEAC vs. SWAC Challenge kicked off the 2021 college football season at Center Parc Stadium in Atlanta, GA, on Saturday, August 28th. North Carolina Central University took on Alcorn State, and the NCCU Eagles pulled out a 23-14 victory over the Braves.
Both teams waited over 600 days to finally get back on the field. Unfortunately, both team’s 2020 seasons were canceled due to covid.
The fans were electric, the bands were rocking, and ESPN College Gameday headline the tailgate.
NCCU quarterback, Davius Richard, picked up where he left off in 2019 as a freshman. Richard finished the game going 16 of 25 with 184 passing yards, nine carries for 64 rushing yards, and two rushing touchdowns. He also took home the offensive MVP for the game.
Outside of the first two drives, the NCCU defense put the clamps on Alcorn State’s offense. Their front seven provided constant pressure for Alcorn State’s quarterback Felix Harper. NCCU’s defense gave up only one first down out of ten attempts. NCCU’s Manny Smith took home the game’s defensive MVP award. Smith finished the game with nine total tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble.
Despite the loss, Alcorn State had a good offensive showing. However, they did not capitalize on the big plays, and North Carolina Central did. In games where both teams are evenly matched and know each other very well, that is usually the case. The missed field goal, bad tackling on a punt return, and two big passing plays that they couldn’t connect on in the RedZone are the plays that sum up the loss for the Braves.
Alcorn State head coach Fred McNair spoke on his team’s lack of execution.
“Just mistakes and turnovers, you know that frustrates a head coach and hurts a good football team, you can’t do it, and when it happens, you have to overcome it. Adversity struck, and like I told my guys pregame, adversity will strike, but how will you bounce back from it. We didn’t do a good job of bouncing back from it.”
Harper and Alcorn’s offense did move the ball well. On the first two drives, it looked like they were about to run away with the game. But again, missed opportunities will stay at the back of this team’s mind as they move forward after this loss. Harper finished the game going 17 of 27 with 154 yards passing and two passing touchdowns. Senior running back Stadford Anderson had 11 carries for 129 yards rushing and one rushing touchdown.
Both teams will have to clean up defensively as they progress through their seasons, but both offenses got over 300 yards of total offense and picked up 15 plus more first downs. Alcorn State will have a week off and then resume play on Saturday, September 11th against Northwestern State. North Carolina Central will also have a week off and travel to West Virginia to take on Marshall University on September 11th.