NC A&T breaks records in Celebration Bowl victory over Alcorn State
North Carolina A&T and Alcorn State collided in a classic Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl contest in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium Saturday. There were a combined 31,672 raucous fans in attendance to witness the Aggies secure their third Celebration Bowl title in four years.
Malik Wilson’s 79-yard game-winning kickoff return for a touchdown with 38 seconds remaining in the third quarter gave the Aggies a 24-16 lead. The Braves responded quickly with a 59-yard touchdown scramble by quarterback Noah Johnson with 11:55 remaining in the game. Unfortunately for the Braves, they were unable to execute a two-point conversion.
“The kickoff return for a touchdown and the missed two-point conversion were the difference in the ball game,” Braves head coach Fred McNair said following the game.
Furthermore, the Aggies were able to generate enough first downs to hold on to a slim lead.
“It was a great win for us,” head coach Sam Washington said. “It’s very important to get an opportunity to play in the postseason and getting to play in a bowl game is really great.”
A game for the record books
Both teams provided memorable plays down the stretch, such as Johnson’s 30-yard touchdown run with 4:29 on the clock in the third quarter that resurrected a lethargic Alcorn State offense. However, it was the Aggies who broke records offensively. NC A&T standout quarterback Lamar Raynard threw a 17-yard touchdown to wideout Elijah Bell just before halftime. The score was Bell’s 25th touchdown reception — which tied the NC A&T touchdown receptions record.
Wait, there’s more.
Wilson’s 79-kickoff return to the house? Yes, that was a Celebration Bowl record. And then there was one…or 34. Alcorn State kicker Corey McCullough has nailed 34 field goals this season, that ties a school record.
Lastly, Washington has won his first Celebration Bowl title with the program. With Raynard playing in his last game as an Aggie, it will be a task for Washington to lead next year’s team to their fourth Celebration Bowl game.
D’Mitri Chin @mr.dmitri.chin