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After defeating the SWAC Champions Alcorn State in a shootout this past Saturday 64-44, the Aggies of North Carolina A&T have won the Celebration Bowl for the third consecutive year, and for the fourth time in five years. As the saying goes, “expect the unexpected” but I was not prepared for what I witnessed in Atlanta. Here are my takeaways from last weekend’s high-scoring affair.
Keys to The Game
Coming into this matchup, there were a few things I said to pay attention to in my preview. Here are two that stood out the most to me:
As simple as it sounds, if you want to beat Alcorn, don't let them score. The Braves are 0-3 when they are held to under 26 points.
Well, that part about holding Alcorn to 26 points … The Braves came into the Celebration Bowl undefeated when they scored at least 27 points. You can now make that 8-1. The last time the Aggies gave up 40 or more points to an FCS opponent was in 2016 to North Carolina Central, a 42-21 loss to the Eagles in Durham.
The Braves defense will have to do their best in stopping Martin. The Aggies are undefeated this season when Jah-Maine rushes for over 100 yards.
Well, make that 7-0 when Martin rushes for 100 yards in a game this season. On Saturday, Jah-Maine rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.
In Too Deep?
After taking a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter, Alcorn gave up 17 unanswered points to go into halftime down 24-10. This was only the fourth time this season that the Braves entered the half losing but the third time that they trailed by at least thirteen points. The 14-point deficit was the second-most this season for Alcorn and the Braves are now 0-3 when trailing at halftime by a double-digit margin.
It all started 13 seconds into the third quarter. Jah-Maine Martin powered his way downfield for a 75-yard touchdown run. Over the next 11 minutes and 55 seconds, Alcorn and A&T would trade scores back-to-back over seven consecutive drives and combine to score the most points ever in one quarter at the Celebration Bowl, 49.
Yes, seven touchdowns.
A 1-play drive, one 2-play drive, two 3-play drives, a 4-play drive and two 10-play drives that tallied 510 yards of offense.
When the quarter finally ended, with its last drive ending with a punt by Alcorn, A&T would enter the fourth quarter with a 52-31 lead.
That third-quarter output would end up being better than the point totals of the last three Celebration Bowls (45, 35, 19).
This slugfest during the game’s third stanza would eventually lead to the game’s highest point total ever (108).
Neither coach expected this output. When asked about it, the defensive-minded head coach of North Carolina A&T Sam Washington responded by saying, “you know I’m a defensive guy. I don’t like to see that many points or yards accumulated but it was very entertaining.”
Big, Quick Drives
Of the 17 drives that ended in scores, 11 of them were six plays or less and took place over a combined twelve-minute span. Those eleven drives averaging a little over 1 minute, 5 seconds with seven of them containing at least one play of 40-plus yards.
To say that Kylil Carter “played well” is an understatement. The graduate student from Atlanta finished the game with 460 yards of total offense and passed for six touchdowns.
As you can imagine, The Celebration Bowl Offensive MVP broke several records on Saturday.
When asked about his performance, Carter stated that “(he) can’t thank (his) o-line and wide receivers enough. Even (his) running backs, making blocks. If it wasn’t for them, none of that would’ve happened.”
But Carter wasn’t the only player to put his name in a few record books this past weekend.
Here are a few other record-setting performances that happened during the game:
Elijah Bell: 2 Catches, 73 Yards, 2 TDs
33 – Tied-Second Most All-Time in Career Touchdown Receptions (MEAC)
Tied with John Taylor, Delaware State-1982-1985; Shaheer McBride, Delaware State-2004-2007
Kylil Carter: 18-30, 364 Yards, 6 TDs
36 – Most Points Scored in an Individual Game (Celebration Bowl)
6 – Tied-Third Most All-Time in Passing Touchdowns in a Single Game (MEAC)
Tied with Rashaan Matthews, Delaware State-11/4/00; Alan Hooker, North Carolina A&T-9/28/85
Jah-Maine Martin: 16 Carries, 110 Yards, 2 TDs
138 – Third Most All-Time Points in a Season (MEAC)
23 – Second Most All-Time in Rushing Touchdowns in a Season (MEAC)
7.7 – Tied-Fourth Most All-Time in Yards Per Carry in a Season (MEAC)
Tied with Harvey Reed, Howard-1986