ATLANTA - The Grambling State University football team came up just short on Saturday afternoon as North Carolina A&T State captured its second Celebration Bowl championship with a 21-14 victory at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
"That was a heck of a football game," Grambling State head coach Broderick Fobbs said. "I am very, very proud of our team and our coaching staff with what we have been able to accomplish. It's been a great, great ride. I take my hat off to North Carolina A&T State and they deserved to win today."
The Aggies (12-0) got the ball to begin the game and marched 51 yards down the field. The 15-play drive stalled as the Tigers got a sack by Malcolm Williams on third down to force North Carolina A&T State to kick a field goal. Noel Ruiz's 42-yard attempt was no good to keep the game tied at 0 with 6:59 remaining in the opening quarter.
After a De'Andre Hogues interception, the Tigers got the ball at their own 14, but Martez Carter coughed the ball on the very next play to give the ball back to North Carolina A&T State with 7:22 left.
The Aggies went 25 yards in just five plays as Lamar Raynard connected with Marquell Cartwright for the 11-yard touchdown to give North Carolina A&T State a 7-0 advantage with 4:58 left in the first half.
After going three-and-out on its next possession, Grambling State's defense came out with a big defensive stop and the Aggies were forced to punt the ball.
The Tigers (11-2) set up shop at its 30 and went 70 yards in eight plays as Devante Kincade connected with Jordan Jones on a 2-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 7 with 43 seconds left in the second quarter.
North Carolina A&T State drove 46 yards in six plays as Ruiz's 38-yarder was blocked by Anfernee Mullins to send the two teams into the break tied at 7.
Grambling State got the ball to begin the second half and marched 71 yards in nine plays, but Kincade tossed his fourth interception of the season as Franklin McCain III came up with the pick in the endzone.
The Aggies capitalized on the interception and went 80 yards in seven plays as Cartwright slashed through the defense for a 29-yard touchdown to give North Carolina A&T State a 14-7 lead with 7:36 remaining in the third.
Grambling State answered early in the fourth quarter and tied the game at 14. The Tigers, who completed a third-and-long on the drive, marched 80 yards in seven plays and took 2:19 off the clock as Carter scored on a 29-yard reception from Kincade with 14:16 left.
After holding North Carolina A&T State and forcing the Aggies to punt, Lyndemian Brook coughed up the ball at the Tigers' own eight. The Grambling State allowed just seven yards and Cartwright was stopped short at the goal line as the Aggies turned the ball over on downs.
Grambling State was forced to punt the football and the Aggies took over with 1:42 left on the clock.
After Cartwright appeared to fumble the football, the ball was recovered by Derrick Dixon and returned to the North Carolina A&T State 27. However, the play was whistled dead. Fobbs challenged the play, but the ruling on the field stood and the Aggies went right to work.
Six players later, Raynard scored on a 1-yard run to give NCAT a 21-14 lead with 38 seconds remaining.
The Tigers still had one more opportunity but Kincade's pass to Carter as time expired fell short to give the Aggies their historic victory.
One play can either make you or one play can either break you.
And that one play came with 1:38 remaining as Marquel Cartwright caught a pass from Lamar Raynard and as he was turning around, fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Derrick Dixon at the Grambling State 48. Dixon ran the ball back to the North Carolina A&T State 27.
However, the play initially was ruled incomplete. Grambling State head coach Broderick Fobbs challenged the play, but the call stood.
The Aggies went on to score the game-winning touchdown as Raynard scored on a 1-yard keeper with 38 seconds remaining.
Inside the Numbers
· Grambling State finished with 12 first downs.
· The Tigers registered 336 total yards, including 225 through the air.
· The Aggies tallied 15 first downs and 397 total yards.
· Devante Kincade was 19-of-36 passing for 225 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
· Devante Kincade led the Tigers in rushing with16 carries for 93 yards.
· Calief Samon led Grambling State in receiving with 53 yards on four receptions.
· Devante Davis added four catches for 29 yards.
· De'Arius Christmas led Grambling State defensively with eight tackles, including five solo stops.
· Lamar Raynard improved to 26-0 as a starter.
· Lamar Raynard was 23-of-43 passing for 225 yards and two interceptions.
· Marquell Cartwright added 20 touches for 110 yards.
· Kiaundric Richardson led North Carolina A&T State defensively with six tackles, including a pair of sacks.
· The Tigers were 5-of-13 on third-down conversions.
· The Aggies were 9-of-18 on third downs.
· Devante Kincade has thrown a touchdown pass in 11 of the 13 games played this season.
· The Aggies scored off two Grambling State turnovers (one fumble and one interception).
· Since the season-opening loss to Tulane, the Tigers have trailed for just 31 minutes and 53 seconds (Jackson State, Clark Atlanta, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Southern and North Carolina A&T State).
News & Notes
· Grambling State came into the game ranked No. 12 in the FCS Coaches Poll and No. 13 in the STATS FCS Top 25 Poll, No. 1 in the SBN Sports Network Black College Football Poll and No. 2 in the BOXTOROW Coaches and Media Poll.
· North Carolina A&T State came into the game ranked No. 7 in the FCS Coaches Poll and the STATS FCS Top 25 Poll. The Aggies were ranked No. 2 in the SBN Sports Network Black College Football Poll, but was No. 1 in the BOXTOROW Coaches and Media Poll.
· Grambling State wore all white jersey's on Saturday and improved to 3-6 during the Broderick Fobbs era.
· Saturday's Celebration Bowl marked the second straight the Tigers have advanced to the bowl game.
· Broderick Fobbs is 0-1 all-time against North Carolina A&T State.
· Grambling State and North Carolina A&T State are tied at 4 in the eight-game series.
· Broderick Fobbs is a four-time SWAC Coach of the Year recipient.
· Devante Kincade earned the SWAC's Offensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season and is a Black College Football Player of the Year Finalist.
· The Grambling State loss snapped an 11-game winning streak
· Grambling State has won 26 SWAC Championship and entered the Celebration Bowl as back-to-back SWAC Champions.
· Saturday's game was broadcasted live on ABC and kicked off the Bowl Season.
· Grambling State is 1-1 all-time in the Celebration Bowl.
· The Tigers are 9-3 all-time in neutral site games under Broderick Fobbs.