North Carolina A&T Defeats Alcorn State 24-22 to Win Second Straight Celebration Bowl

ATLANTA, GA – North Carolina A&T quarterback Lamar Raynard passed for 292 yards and two scores to lift the Aggies to a 24-22 win over Alcorn State in the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl, Saturday before a crowd of 31,672 at Mercedes Benz Stadium and a national ABC television audience.

The Aggie win gave the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) a 3-1 advantage in the bowl, which annually pits the MEAC champion against the winner of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). The victory also gave NC A&T back-to-back wins in the event and its third triumph in three appearances in the four-year old bowl.
The 11th ranked Aggies and first-year head coach Sam Washington, finished the campaign at 10-2 and will claim their second straight National Black College Championship and their third title in four seasons.

Saturday’s contest was a rematch of the 2015 inaugural Celebration Bowl in which the Aggies defeated the Braves 41-34 behind a 295-yard rushing, three touchdown performance by running back Tarik Cohen, in his second season with the Chicago Bears.

Raynard, a 6-4, 195 redshirt senior out of High Point, NC, connected on 18-30 attempts, with one interception, in the game and had scoring tosses of 17 yards to Zachary Leslie on the game’s opening drive, staking his team to a 7-0 lead and 27 yards to Elijah Bell with less than a minute left in the half for a 17-3 Aggie edge.

It was Raynard’s best passing performance of the season, and NC A&T needed it as the Aggies were limited to just 38 net yards rushing in 31 attempts for 324 total yards in the contest.
Noel Ruiz added a 36-yard field goal and Malik Wilson returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown to round out the Aggie scoring.

The Braves, despite the loss, rolled up 451 yards total offense, including 328 yards on the ground. Alcorn quarterback Noah Johnson completed 12-21 passes for 123 yards, while suffering one interception. De’Shawn Waller led the Alcorn running attack with 167 yards. Johnson was also a factor in the Braves’ running game, gaining 120 yards on 14 attempts with two touchdowns.
Coach Fred McNair’s team also got three field goals from Corey McCullough, two from 29 yards away and one 25-yarder in the loss.

North Carolina A&T limited the Braves to two McCullough field goals in taking a 17-6 lead at the half but Washington’s team had trouble stopping Alcorn’s potent rushing attack in the second half.
“In the first half, I thought we played well on both sides of the football,” Washington stated in the postgame news conference. “We kept them out of the end zone, but they started running that zone seal on us in the second half and our eyes were in the wrong place and we gave up to big ones (scoring runs).

“We could have done things better, made some earlier adjustments but we made the critical stop when we needed to near the end when we forced a three-and-out and got the ball back to run out the clock. We also stopped the two-point conversion and got the kickoff return for a score.

“It was a great win for us,” he continued. “It’s very important to get an opportunity to play in the postseason and getting to play in a bowl game is really great.”
The Aggies opened the scoring on Raynard’s scoring toss to Leslie, who had six catches for 119 yards, with 12:38 left in the first quarter, staking the MEAC kingpin to a 7-0 lead, following the first of Noel Ruiz’s three extra points.

McCullough’s first field goal, the first 29-yard, pulled the Braves to within 7-3 with 2:52 left in the period. Ruiz, following an interception by the Aggies’ Timadre Abram, nailed 36-yard field goal to increase the NC A&T lead to 10-7 with 8:33 on the second period clock,

Raynard, named the Offensive Player of the game, found Bell from 27 yards away to stake his team to a 17-3 advantage with 53 seconds left in the half, but the Braves drove 67 yards in eight plays and got a 25-yard field goal from McCullough, his second of the game, to reach the half down 17-6. Bell, who had six catches for 68 yards and a scored tied a school record with for career touchdowns with 25.

With 4:29 left in the third, Alcorn pulled to within 17-13 when Johnson broke a 30-yard scoring run, culminating a four-play, 86-yard drive. The Braves pulled to with 17-16 when McCullough was good on a 29-yard field goal with 51 seconds left in the third.

But just as the Braves appeared to have momentum after scoring 10 unanswered points, The Aggies’ Malik Wilson took the kickoff at his 12, got to the outside and raced untouched for 88 yards and a touchdown that put his team ahead 24-16 following the extra point by Ruiz with 38 seconds in the period. It was Wilson’s fourth kickoff return for a touchdown this season, setting a school single-season record.

Johnson got his second, long scoring run, from 59 yards out, with 11:55 left in the final period to culminate a nine-play, 92 yard march to pull his team to with 24-22 and put the Braves in a position to tie with a successful two-point conversion.

On a run-pass option, Johnson rolled out and found Alcorn’s Chris Blair for what appeared to be the tying conversion, however, it was called no good as he juggled the ball while going out of bounds. After the ensuing kickoff, the Braves forced a punt by the Aggies but were unable to move the ball and had to punt themselves. The never got the ball back as NC A&T picked up three first downs to run out the clock.

Despite the loss, The Braves’ Fred McNair praised his team, which concluded a 9-4 campaign.

“I’m proud of these young men and the effort they gave in the game and how they competed throughout the season,” he said. “I told them that the game of football like life has it obstacles, but life goes on. It was a tough loss for our seniors. The kickoff return for a touchdown and the missed two-point conversion were the difference in the ball game.”

Black College Football Hall of Fame Announces 2018 Black College Football Player of the Year Award Finalists

At a glance:

  • Four Finalists have been selected from a Watch List comprised of over 50 players.
  • The Finalists will be honored during the Black College Football Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Atlanta, Georgia on February 16, 2019.
  • The winner will be announced during the Induction Ceremony and presented with the Deacon Jones Trophy.

Atlanta, GA (November 29, 2018) – The Black College Football Hall of Fame (BCFHOF) announced today four Finalists for the Black College Football Player of the Year Award. The Award is presented annually to the most outstanding football player from a Historically Black College & University (HBCU) that embodies the rich tradition of athletic excellence and integrity associated with HBCUs. Former North Carolina A&T State University, and current Chicago Bears running back Tarik Cohen was the inaugural recipient of the Award in 2016, and Bowie State quarterback Amir Hall was selected as the recipient in 2017.

The 2018 Finalists include QB Amir Hall (Bowie State University), DL Darryl Johnson (North Carolina A&T State University), QB Noah Johnson (Alcorn State University) and QB Caylin Newton (Howard University).

The Finalists were chosen by a five-member Selection Committee, which is composed of Black College Football Hall of Fame founders James “Shack” Harris and Doug Williams, longtime SBN Broadcaster and Director of News and Sports for the Power News Radio Network Ty Miller, former USA Today sports writer Roscoe Nance, and ESPN College Football Analyst Jay Walker.

“The Black College Football Player of the Year Award showcases the immense talent of our HBCU student-athletes today,” said Doug Williams, BCFHOF Co-Founder and 2011 Inductee. “Each finalist has had an incredible season and we are excited to celebrate their success.”

The winner of the 2018 Black College Football Player of the Year Award will be announced on February 16, 2019 at the 10th Annual Black College Football Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, Presented by the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta, Georgia. He will be presented with the Deacon Jones Trophy, named in honor of the football legend and inaugural BCFHOF inductee.

“On behalf of the Black College Football Hall of Fame Trustees, we congratulate the Black College Football Player of the Year Finalists,” said James “Shack” Harris, Co-Founder and 2012 Inductee. “These student-athletes represent the very best of HBCU football.”

The Finalists will also be recognized at the Celebration Bowl in Atlanta on December 15th, along with the BCFHOF Class of 2019, which will be televised on ABC.


2018 Finalists

Amir Hall

Quarterback … Bowie State University … Senior … 2018 CIAA Offensive Player of the Year … Three-time 1st Team All-CIAA … Led conference in passing yards (4,152), passing touchdowns (31) and total offense (4,597) … Also had 445 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns … The CIAA’s all-time career passing touchdown leader (102) and all-time career passing yards leader (11,358) … Candidate for The Harlon Hill Award (Division II College Football Player of the Year) … 2017 Black College Football Player of the Year (Deacon Jones Trophy).

Darryl Johnson, Jr.

Defensive End … North Carolina A&T State University … Junior … Two-time 1st Team All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) … Led MEAC in sacks (10.5) and tackles-for-loss (18.5) … Had 47 total tackles and three pass breakups in 2018 … His 18.5 TFL ranked #10 nationally in FCS Football … In season-opening upset victory over nationally ranked Jacksonville State, Johnson’s strip sack sealed the game for the Aggies … Finalist the Buck Buchanan Award for FCS Defensive Player of the Year … Named to 2017 AFCA and BoxToRow All-American Teams.




Noah Johnson

Quarterback … Alcorn State University … Sophomore … Led the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) in passing efficiency (137.7) and completion percentage (63.4), and #2 in total offense (2,757) … Ranked #5 in SWAC in rushing yards (813) and touchdowns (7) … Led Alcorn State to East Division title and the SWAC Championship game … Led Alcorn’s offense to #1 in the SWAC in yards per game (471.3) … Finalist the Walter Payton Award for FCS Offensive Player of the Year … Finalist for the Cspire Conerly Award as the top collegiate player in Mississippi.

Caylin Newton

Quarterback … Howard University … Sophomore … 1st Team All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) … Led MEAC in passing yards (2,629), passing touchdowns (22) and total offense (3,133 yards), and ranked #2 in efficiency (136.7) … Ranked #7 nationally in FCS Football in total offense … Added 504 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns … Led Howard’s offense to #1 in the MEAC in points per game (33.6) and yards per game (470.8) … Finalist the Walter Payton Award for FCS Offensive Player of the Year.

Alcorn State University Heads to the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl for the Second Time

ATLANTA – The second invitation to the fourth annual Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl – to be played on Saturday, Dec. 15, at noon ET from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and aired live on ABC – has been extended to the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) college football champion, Alcorn State University. The Alcorn Braves defeated the Southern Jaguars 38-27 in Saturday’s SWAC Championship Game.  Executive Director of the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl, John Grant, was on-site in Lorman and presented Alcorn State University Coach Fred McNair with the official invitation.

“Congratulations to SWAC champion Alcorn State for punching their ticket to the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl,” said Grant. “We are excited for the Braves to join us in this championship matchup against the North Carolina A&T Aggies.”

The Braves, after winning their fifth consecutive SWAC West division title, were able to secure their spot in Atlanta by defeating Southern University in the SWAC Championship game.  North Carolina A&T comes into the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl with a record of 9-2 after winning last year’s coveted Celebration Bowl trophy for the second time in three years.

Entering its fourth year, the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl has established itself as a premier bowl game and celebrates the heritage, legacy, pageantry, and tradition of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). It is a championship-style game between the MEAC and SWAC champions and will be televised on ABC. ESPN Events collaborates with 100 Black Men of Atlanta to organize the game’s ancillary events which include a youth symposium, robotics showcase, gospel night, fan experience and more. The MEAC leads the overall Celebration Bowl series 2-1 after three years. North Carolina A&T defeated Alcorn State 41-34 in the inaugural game in 2015. In 2016, Grambling State defeated North Carolina Central 10-9.  As in previous years, last year’s Celebration Bowl was a tight battle with North Carolina A&T beating Grambling State 21-14.

Fans can purchase tickets to the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl online at or, or by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000. Prices range from $15 to $155 including taxes and fees.  A full list of events surrounding the game are available on the event’s website.

For MEAC fans, a special rate of $110/night is being offered at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, and is available for December 15-16.  Please visit the Celebration Bowl website for more details.

For SWAC fans, a special rate of $97/night is being offered at the Hilton Atlanta, and is available for December 15-16.  Please visit the Celebration Bowl website for more details.

Additional hotel rooms are available at the Holiday Inn Express and Suites Atlanta Downtown for $105/night.  Please visit the Celebration Bowl website for more details.

Air Force Reserve

There are many exciting part-time Air Force Reserve jobs which allow Reserve Citizen Airmen to advance their civilian careers or continue their educations while serving close to home. College Tuition Assistance and signing bonuses up to $20,000 are available for specific jobs. Go to or call 800-257-1212 for more information on how you can Start Your Adventure with the Air Force Reserve.

ESPN Events
ESPN Events, a division of ESPN, owns and operates a large portfolio of 32 collegiate sporting events worldwide. The roster includes three Labor Day weekend college football games; FCS opening-weekend game; 14 college bowl games, 10 college basketball events, a college softball event and two college award shows, which accounts for approximately 300-plus hours of programming, reaches almost 64 million viewers and attracts over 700,000 attendees each year. With satellite offices in Albuquerque, Birmingham, Boca Raton, Boise, Dallas-Fort Worth, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Montgomery and St. Petersburg, ESPN Events builds relationships with conferences, schools and local communities, as well as providing unique experiences for teams and fans.

ESPN Events also manages the Big 12 Corporate Partner Program.

Collegiate Football
Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl (Houston); AdvoCare Texas Kickoff (Houston); Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl (Tampa, Fla.); Birmingham Bowl (Alabama); Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl (Florida); Camping World Kickoff (Orlando, Fla.); Celebration Bowl (Atlanta); Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Boise); DXL Frisco Bowl (Texas); Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff (Montgomery, Ala.); Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl (Dallas-Fort Worth); Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl (Nassau);  MEAC/SWAC Challenge (Atlanta); Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl (Nevada); Myrtle Beach BowlNew Mexico Bowl (Albuquerque); Raycom Media Camellia Bowl (Montgomery, Ala.); SERVPRO First Responder Bowl (Dallas-Fort Worth);  SoFi Hawai’i Bowl (Honolulu); The Home Depot College Football Awards (Atlanta)

Collegiate Basketball

AdvoCare Invitational (Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Fla.); Armed Forces Classic (Fort Bliss, Texas); Charleston Classic (South Carolina); College Basketball Awards Presented by Wendy’s (Los Angeles); Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic (Honolulu); Jimmy V Men’s Classic presented by Corona (New York City); Jimmy V Women’s Classic Presented by Corona (South Bend, Ind.); Myrtle Beach Invitational (Conway, S.C.); NIT Season Tip-Off (Brooklyn, N.Y.); State Farm Champions Classic (Indianapolis) and Wooden Legacy (Fullerton, Calif.)

Collegiate Softball

St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational (Clearwater, Fla.)

For more information, visit the official website, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube pages.


ESPN Media Contact: Anna Negron at 860-766-2233 or

Hope-Beckham Inc. Media Contacts: Wendy Hsiao at 404-604-2192 or or Victoria Croft at 404-604-2491 or