Saturday the Alcorn State University Braves and the North Carolina A&T Aggies will meet in the 4th annual Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl to determine HBCU football supremacy.
Alcorn State heads into the contest after an exciting defeat of Southern University 37-28 in the SWAC championship game. North Carolina A&T finds themselves in their third Celebration Bowl after FAMU refused to win the MEAC after dropping their final three games of the season.
The Braves’ offense seemed to find its groove as the season progressed, as they scored over 30 in four of their last six games. Overall the Alcorn offense lead the Southwestern Athletic Conference in total offense (475.2 ypg), scoring (33.5 ppg), rushing (282.3 ypg), first downs per game (23.4) and time of possession (33:06). Spearheading the offense is quarterback Noah Johnson, who is the SWAC Offensive Player of the year and was also named SWAC Offensive MVP, and junior running back De’Shawn Waller who was the SWAC Newcomer of the Year.
Alcorn State’s defense is no pushover, ranking first in FCS in sacks per game (4.25) and tackles for a loss at 9.3 per game. The Braves’ defense is in the top-five nationally in total yards (288.7 ypg) as well as rushing yards (95.7 ypg).
The Aggies of North Carolina have senior quarterback Lamar Raynard, who’s thrown for 1,630 yards and fellow senior running back Marquell Cartwright has ran for 1,002 yards this season ranks fifth all-time in school history with 2,780 rushing yards. Even with these two senior standouts, the fate of the Aggies may rest with their defense. The group allowed 20 or more points only three times on the season and just 13.45 ppg to opponents all year long.
The fans who will be attendance at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the thousands who will tune in on television should be treated to a hard-fought, tightly contested battle that will be determined by who wins the battle in the trenches. I think the Alcorn defensive front will be able to get pressure on Lamar Raynard and that will severely slow down the Aggie offense That will leave the door open just enough for Noah Johnson and the Braves offense to make a few plays to put them over the top and get Alcorn their first Celebration Bowl victory.
Alcorn 17, NC A&T 13