Inside Hotlanta and the SIAC
By Hal Lamar
Celebration Bowl: Tough Luck N.C. Central Loses to Grambling
ATLANTA- When North Carolina Central University overcame a seven point deficit to Grambling University to pull within one point of tying the Tigers and sending the game to a possible overtime and perhaps a victory, hard-core Eagle fans and the NCCU bench started celebrating, sensing a possible upset over their opponent, who were 15 point favorites to win, according to the line in Las Vegas. “We came close toward the end with that touchdown but we missed the extra point,” said junior linebacker Reggie Hunter. “We missed that (PAT) but played four hard quarters of football.”
The celebrating was short-lived. After the Eagles scored on a 39 yard pass from quarterback Malcolm Bell to Quintin Atkinson in the end zone, the overly excited redshirt senior wide receiver took off his helmet drawing a 15 yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. It then forced placekicker Brandon McCaluren to attempt the PAT further back. The kick was blocked by Grambling defensive back Joseph McWillams. Grambling took control of the football and then ran out the remaining 2:12 of the period.
After the game, Atkinson spoke to his teammates. “My coach told me it (penalty) was because I took my helmet off and I apologized to the team. It seemed a selfish act. I’m not selfish but it was in the heat of the moment and I was excited over helping bring the team back.”
“Yes it was sort of a bonehead play,” said Bell . “But there were a lot of mistakes made on the field that could have affected the outcome, But (Quinton) that’s my brother. I’m not gonna beat him up or anything like that. We’ve been around each other for three years . He made a mistake but I love him.”
Grambling’s head coach Broderick Fobbs, son of the school’s running backs coach Lee Fobbs, said the 10-9 win over NCCU was a crowning achievement not only for himself but the entire football program .”When Fobbs arrived to the campus in 2014, Gramblingland was in near turmoil. “It was a fractured situation when we got here,” said Fobbs. “ It was tough. Our kids were broken and trusted few. Who could blame them? They had had three coaches in one year ( Doug Williams, George Ragsdale-who also coached at Morris Brown in Atlanta, and Dennis Winston). The look I got was how long you gonna be here. But I liked accepting challenges and it couldn’t get any worse. It wasn’t much of a pressure situation. I was where I felt we had to first trust, love and get off the ground. Secondly, was had to learn to compete again, then win again and then lastly we had to learn to experience success but forget about it and try it again. “
Fobbs said he felt the turnaround came this year when Grambling defeated Jackson State after their loss to Arizona. “I said OK, the kids get it. You have to play 60 minutes of football.” The Tigers then reeled off 9 straight victories and defeated Alcorn to win the SWAC conference championship on December 3.
Statistically, in the first half Grambling and NC Central were not that far apart offensively, in completed passes, first downs or penalties. Nonetheless, the Eagles scored first on their opening possession with a 23 yard field goal by McLaren and held on to that lead through the entire half. This was the second time in their final two games that Grambling was behind at the half. (Alcorn shut out on Grambling 17-0 in the first half of the conference championship game).
”We are a high powered offense, “ said GSU QB Devante Kincaid.” We knew what we had. When Coach (Eric) Dooley (offensive coordinator) came in at halftime and said, guys, they took their best shot and we haven’t gotten started yet So what we did was buckle down and when we got there (for the second half), we took what they gave us and you saw the display we had put on today.”
“Today (Saturday ,December 17) we ran the football well and was able to establish some drives and put what we needed to do in the end zone,” said Fobbs “ My hat is off to North Carolina Central .They have a great program and Coach Mack is a a heck of a coach. They did an exceptional job and it was definitely an even-match ballgame. You can tell by the score."
The offensive and defensive players of Celebration II both came from Grambling. Martez Carter, a junior from Monroe, Louisiana was offensive MVP. He rushed 12 times for 109 yards and scored one touchdown (32 yards).
Jammel Jackson, senior defensive back from Fort Pierce Florida was named Defensive player of the game. He had five solo tackles In the game…….
North Carolina Central dedicated their Celebration Bowl appearance to former teammate Ty Brown. The Charlotte, North Carolina native died December 15 in an automobile accident. He played with the Eagles from 2011-to 2014 as a linebacker and defensive end. He was 24……….
00 black men’s Atlanta Football Classic which merged with the Celebration after 25 years. He says the big game has already surpassed the Atlanta Football Classic in many levels.” Last year, we had 14.8 million people watch Celebration I .It will be more than that next year because we are back on ABC. We open the college football bowl season and the game this year was broadcast over the American Forces Radio and TV Service (AFRTS) which makes the Celebration Bowl a global game now. As for attendance, we had a bit of inclement weather and our attendance was down a little this year. With any annual event, there are ebbs and flows, What is really important for us is that people watch. According to the rating polls we’ve received so far, we have exceeded 14.5 million and that’s the most important thing because that’s how we educate the country on the value of historically black colleges and that is what this bowl game does.”Celebration II drew a crowd of 31,096 to the Georgia Dome. It was 4,629 less than Celebration I but it didn’t really phase John Grant, executive director of the bowl. Grant is the former executive director of the 1
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