A game that certainly lived up to its hype and once again proved how tough Grambling St could be in the second-half of football games. It started with the SouthWestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) title game against Alcorn st, in which the tigers won 27-20 after putting together a well orchestrated comeback that would earn there respective trip to the national championship game.
A game that started slow for both teams, and had both fans anxious for the big play. It was missed opportunities throughout the whole first half and looked as if we were in for a defensive led shutout, We watched two prominent offenses put together a halftime score of 3-0 held by North Carolina Central.
The second half showed resilience by the Tigers behind the offensive player of the game, Martez Carter. Calling himself, “The home run hitter”. A name well deserved for his performance rushing for 109 yards on 12 carries and put together a total of 212 all purpose yards, he lit a spark under his team scoring the only second half touchdown with a 32 yard run that put his tigers up 7-3 in the third quarter. “He was our heart and soul for our team today on the offensive side” said Coach Fobbs.
The outstanding play of Grambling’s defense would continue late in the third as linebacker Arkez Cooper forced a sack and fumble on NCCU quarterback Bell, leading to a recovery by the Tigers on the Eagles own 22 yard line. Eventually this recovery would lead to a field goal, points that would be the most valuable of the game. Putting the Tigers up 10-3 with 2 minutes left in the third quarter.
This game was still yet far from over. NCCU would not go down without a fight! Holding Grambling out of the endzone on 4 downs and giving the ball back to there offense on numerous occasions. This team would hold off the Tigers until the very end.
After being held to zero touchdowns in the game, Bell and the Eagles put together the most important drive late in the 4th quarter under 3mins remaining. NCCUs quarterback Bell would roll oustide the pocket to evade the pass rush and throw the a strike in the endzone to a wide open Quentin Atkinson. The touchdown brought the Eagles within 1 point of the Grambling Tigers in a game that had seen little offense. But it was what followed the score by wide receiver Atkinson that would cost his team dearly.
A 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on NCCU receiver Atkinson for taking off his helmet and excessively celebrating. Ironic that this was called during the Celebration Bowl. This penalty would push the extra point back 15 yards. And would be what some say is the reason the field goal extra point was blocked. Which led to the loss for the North Carolina Central Eagles 10-9 against the Grambling State Tigers.
“I was in the moment and wanted to celebrate helping my team make a big play, I apologize for my selfish act” said Atkinson during the post game.
A game that exemplified how HBCU sports have come so far. Two teams that left it all on the field, but we could only have one winner. Congratulations to the 2016 Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl Champions Grambling State Tigers !
Photos: Jake McDonald, CORE360 Sports