For the first 59 minutes and change, we had no idea how the Celebration Bowl was going to wrap up. It was that kind of game. While Grambling State was clearly in the game the whole time, North Carolina A&T never trailed the historic HBCU powerhouse, and the Aggies scored with 38 seconds remaining to clinch the first perfect season in MEAC history, 21-14.
[divider]COMPARE: Any Two FCS Players | Any Two FCS Teams[divider]
CELEBRATION BOWL HIGHLIGHTS: These were the key plays[divider]
How tight was this matchup? Well, both star quarterbacks threw for 225 yards in the game. The anticipated matchup of the two best quarterbacks in the HBCU ranks did not disappoint, as Grambling senior QB Devante Kincade threw for the yardage above, but also darted his way to 93 yards on the ground. The senior was the spark he has always been for the Tigers, and he put on a show while Aggies junior QB Lamar Raynard threw a touchdown and rushed for the game-winning touchdown.
With Grambling greats like Doug Williams looking on, along with the the spirit of legendary Grambling coach Eddie Robinson, and North Carolina A&T legend Elvin Bethea all the way to this year's NFL Draft Pick Tarik Cohen undoubtedly looking on, the aura was certainly there.
There was one stat that jumped off the page when others looked so comparable, and that was time of possession. While the Aggies don't exactly run a smothering run-dominated offense like a Triple Option team might have, they owned the clock 10 minutes longer that Grambling. Their defense, which was giving up only 251 yards per game through 11 previous games, gave up more than it usually does, but it also held Grambling to just 24 minutes and 37 seconds of possession — which made it tough for Kincade to get rolling.
Several players on both teams graduated in the past few days, and several star seniors wrapped up their careers today. Grambling's DB De'Aumante Johnson, OL Trent Scott, RB Martez Carter and Kincade played for the final time, as did N.C. A&T stud LB Jeremy Taylor, NFL bound Brandon Parker and O-line compatriot Darriel Mack and TE Trey Scott.
But there are dozens of key returnees, so could we see a rematch a year from today? Possibly.
MCLAUGHLIN: Top FCS prospects for the NFL. Who is trending?
N.C. A&T's Lamar Raynard was excellent in 2017 (NCAT athletics)[/credit]