By: Ashley Nelson
North Carolina Central University’s Eagles dominated the field in the first quarter of the Celebration Bowl game, but proved to be no match for the Grambling State Tigers as they were caught slipping in the later half of the game resulting in a 10 – 9 loss for the Eagles.
The Celebration Bowl may have been decided over an excessive celebration penalty for the Eagles. Desperately in need of a touchdown in the fourth quarter, North Carolina Central prayers were answered when Malcolm Bell threw for a 39-yard touchdown to receiver Quentin Atkinson with under three minutes. However, Atkinson celebration pushed the game-tying point back 15 yards, and then Eagle’s kicker Brandon McLaren’s kick gets blocked, solidifying the Tigers bowl win.
The Eagles were the first to score on their opening possession after the Tigers threw an interception in the opening drive at the one-yard line, Alden McClellon first career interception of the season. McLaren kicked a 23-yard field goal giving North Carolina Central the first three points of the game.
What looked like hope for Grambling State on their second ball possession in the second quarter soon shattered as a touchdown was challenged on the field, resulting in an incomplete pass for the Tigers. With a false start on the next play, the Tigers settled for a missed 37-yard field goal attempt.
North Carolina Central was successful in neutralizing Grambling State’s offense in the first half, which were Head Coach Jerry Mack intentions, as the Tigers remain scoreless in the first half for the second time this season.
A 32-yard run touchdown by Martez Carter would give the Tigers their first points of the game in the opening possession of the second half. Jonathan Wallace kick was good, with the Tigers holding a 7 – 3 lead over the Eagles. Grambling State has scored on the opening possessions of the second half in the last three consecutive games against Southern, Alcorn State and North Carolina Central.
Grambling State will increase their lead over North Carolina Central towards the end of the third quarter with a 26-yard field goal by Wallace. The very last time the Tigers would score in the bowl game.
The Air Force Reserve 2016 Celebration Bowl was a record-breaking game for both teams as it finished with the duration of three hours and forty minutes, breaking last year’s record by three minutes.
- Grambling State held the ball for 6:05 in the opening drive of the first quarter using 13 plays, both breaking Celebration Bowl records set by North Carolina A&T the previous year.
- Grambling set several new Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl records recording two interceptions (breaking one from both Alcorn State and North Carolina A & T in the previous year, nine tackle loss (breaking North Carolina A & T seven) and 21 first downs (breaking Alcorn State’s record of 19).
- Congratulations to Grambling State’s individual achievements as both Arkez Cooper and Lorin Winston set new Celebration Bowl record with two tackles loss, breaking the mark set by several players in the previous year.
- North Carolina Central set a new Air Force Celebration Bowl record with 77 tackles, breaking Alcorn State’s previous record of 55.
- Congratulations to North Carolina Central’s individual achievements as Reggie Hunter set a new Celebration Bowl record with 11 tackles, breaking the record in the third quarter. Malcolm Bell set two new bowl records with 18 completions, breaking Lenorris Footman of Alcorn State 14 mark, and record in passing 240 yards, breaking Kwashaun Quick’s of North Carolina A & T record of 149.