North Carolina A&T wins 2nd Celebration Bowl in 3 years
By Guy Curtright
ATLANTA (AP) — North Carolina A&T won its fourth Historically Black College and University national title Saturday and did it while going unbeaten for the first time.
Lamar Raynard scored on a 1-yard sneak with 38 seconds left and the Aggies won their second Celebration Bowl in three years, defeating Grambling State 21-14.
“It’s a great feeling to make history,” the junior quarterback said.
N.C. A&T (12-0) claimed titles in 1990 and 1999 in addition to 2015, when the Aggies defeated Alcorn State 41-34 in the first Celebration Bowl.
“It’s an awesome feeling to be 12-0 right now,” N.C. A&T coach Rod Broadway said. “I’m just extremely proud of our players and I’m happy for our school.”
Raynard, one of four finalists for the Black College Hall of Fame player of the year, completed 23 of 43 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown and had 17 yards on eight carries.
Raynard drove the Aggies 56 yards in seven plays for the winning touchdown, shaking off nearly throwing his third interception. Grambling (11-2) challenged the call, but the pass was confirmed an incomplete by video review.
Grambling was trying for a second straight HBCU national title as the Tigers edged North Carolina Central 10-9 last year.
“It was a great game, like two heavyweight fighters going hard at it,” Grambling coach Broderick Fobbs said. “They just made one more play than we did.”
Grambling senior DeVante Kincade, also a finalist for player of the year, completed 19 of 36 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns while also scrambling for 93 yards on 16 carries.
Franklin McCain III made the biggest defensive play for the Aggies. The red-shirt freshman cornerback ended a Grambling drive following the second-half kickoff with an interception at the goal line.
N.C. A&T marched down the field to go ahead 14-7 on Marquell Cartwright’s 30-yard run.
Cartwright finished with 110 yards rushing on 20 carries.
Grambling tied it early in the fourth quarter as Martez Carter teamed with Kincade on a 29-yard TD pass to cap an 80-yard drive.
“I wanted to go out with another championship, but it just wasn’t meant to be,” said Kincade, who started his college career at Mississippi. “I really wish I had another year to play at Grambling. It was an amazing experience.”
N.C. A&T’s Lyndemian Brooks recovered a fumble at the Grambling 8 in the fourth quarter, but the Aggies came up empty when Cartwright tried to punch it in from a yard out on fourth down and was stopped by defensive end Brandon Varner.
Grambling went six plays on its final drive of the game but Kincade’s pass over the middle was incomplete as time expired.
“It’s awesome,” said McCain. “Not many programs can say that they went 12-0 and won a national championship. It’s unbelievable.”
N.C. A&T: The Aggies became the first MEAC team to go undefeated for an entire season as they continued their run of success under Broadway. N.C. A&T is 40-8 with two HBCU national titles in four seasons under Broadway.
A&T’s All-American offensive tackle, Brandon Parker, is a Kannapolis native and former star at A.L. Brown High School.
Grambling State: The Tigers are back despite failing in their bid for consecutive HBCU national title. Grambling is 38-11 in four seasons under Fobbs, a former Tigers captain who was hired after the team went 2-21 over two years amid player turmoil.
Both head coaches have a deep connection with the other team. A&T’s Broadway spent four years at Grambling, leading the Tigers to the 2008 HBCU national championship. Grambling running backs coach Lee Fobbs, the father of the head coach, was A&T’s head coach from 2006-08.
A&T’s offensive coordinator is Chip Hester, former head coach at Catawba.
Grambling State: The Tigers return eight starters on offense and six on defense, meaning they should be powerful again in 2018 despite the loss of Kincade. Grambling opens next season with their first game ever against in-state Louisiana-Lafayette.
NC A&T: With Raynard and Cartwright returning, the Aggies should put up points again in 2018 despite heavy losses on the offensive line and the defense will retain plenty of experience. N.C. A&T opens next season at East Carolina in its first meeting.