The Cricket Celebration Bowl is a postseason college football game featuring the conference champions from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). The event’s mission is to provide the schools, alumni, fans, and sponsors with a first-class bowl experience while continuing to celebrate the heritage, legacy, pageantry and tradition of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. It is managed by ESPN Events, a subsidiary of ESPN, which owns and operates a large portfolio of collegiate sporting events worldwide, including 17 postseason bowl games. John Grant serves as the Celebration Bowl’s Executive Director.


The Cricket Celebration Bowl was announced at the College Football Hall of Fame in March of 2015. The event got off to a rousing start in its inaugural year as North Carolina A&T defeated Alcorn State 41-34 in front of over 35,000 fans at the Georgia Dome. An additional 14.8 million people (2.56 million average) watched around the country on ABC.


In 2016, the event was viewed by even more people as average viewership eclipsed a 2.71 million average. In addition, Grambling State’s 10-9 victory over North Carolina Central was seen by service men and women around the world in over 140 countries on the Armed Forces Network.

The 2021 game hosted 48,653 fans at Mercedez-Benz Stadium, an event record. That figure represented the 12th largest crowd of all bowl games that year.


See below for year by year results. For information on our MVPs click here.

Series Record: MEAC Leads 6-1



North Carolina Central 41, Jackson State 34
Mercedes-Benz Stadium – Atlanta, GA

Box Score

The Eagles took a 10-0 lead in the first seven minutes of the contest before Jackson fought back to go ahead 14-10 early in the second period in the contest that featured six lead changes, three in each half. Jackson State led 21-17 at the half. NC Central owned a 26-21 lead after three periods and there were two lead changes and one tie in the final stanza before the game was decided in overtime.

NCCU took a 34-27 lead on Davius Richard’s one-yard run and a successful two-point conversion pass with 4:31 left in the fourth period, but Sanders directed a 15-play, 81-yard scoring drive in the final four minutes of regulation, connecting with Travis Hunter on a 19-yard scoring pass with no time left on the fourth-period clock to get the Tigers to within 34-33. Alejandro Mata’s extra point deadlocked the contest at 34-all, forcing the extra period in a contest that featured six lead changes.

Jackson State won the toss in overtime and elected to go on defense from the 25-yard line. It took the underdog Eagles just four plays to get into the end zone, with Richard getting the score from one yard away. Adrian Olivio added the PAT to put Coach Trei Oliver’s team ahead 41-34 the game.

Jackson State got its turn, also from the 25-yard line, and in five plays reached the one-yard line on a second-down, two-yard run by Sy’veon Wilkerson. However, two straight passes by Sanders were off the mark, giving NC Central the win, their first Celebration Bowl triumph in two appearances. The Eagles lost 10-9 to Grambling in 2016, the only win for the SWAC in the rivalry which began in 2016.

Saturday’s loss was the second in as many years for Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders suffered a defeat in the postseason Classic between the two conferences. Sanders, after three seasons as Tiger head coach, is headed to a similar position at Colorado. Jackson State fell to South Carolina State 31-10 in 2021.

The underdog Eagles, who finished the season 10-2 and won the MEAC with a 4-1 worksheet, rolled up 482 yards of total offense in the contest, with 276 coming on the ground. Running back Latrell Collier led the Eagle ground attack with 98 yards and a touchdown on 17 attempts and also had five catches for 40 yards.

Richard was close behind in the rushing department with 97 yards and two scores on 22 tries. The NCCU signal caller also completed 15 of 20 passes for 175 yards and a score in the victory. The junior of Belle Glade, FL had scoring runs of four and one yard and completed a 12-yard scoring pass to Quention McCall. Collier added a seven-yard scoring run and Adrian Olivo field goals of 32 and 21 yards in the win.

E.J. Hicks had four catches for 84 yards and set up the Eagles’ first touchdown with a 31-yard option pass to Richard, and added a successful two-point conversion completion to Richard in the final period, which staked his team to a 34-27 lead with 4:31 left in regulation.

The Eagle defense was paced by MEAC Defensive Player of the Year, junior linebacker Khalil Baker with 10 tackles, five solos, and freshman cornerback Jason Chambers who had nine stops, including five unassisted.

Richard was named the game’s Offensive MVP and Baker the Defensive MVP  in the contest.

Jackson State quarterback Sanders, despite being on the losing end of consecutive Celebration Bowls, had an impressive outing for the Tigers. The Canton, TX sophomore completed 30 of 40 attempts for 349 yards and four scores. He found 10 Jackson State teammates for completions, including Kevin Coleman, Jr., who gathered eight passes for 137 yards and a score. Shane Hooks had seven catches for 70 yards and Hunter five for 47 and two touchdowns. The Tigers were limited to just 68 net yards rushing with Wilkerson leading the way with 52 yards on 15 attempts.

Graduate linebacker Aubrey Miller Jr. led the Tiger defense with 11 tackles, five unassisted, along with a forced fumble, while redshirt freshman Jeremiah Williams added 10 stops, including five solos and a sack.


Stanjohnson 3121


South Carolina State 31, Jackson State 10
Mercedes-Benz Stadium – Atlanta, GA

Box Score

In a stunning turn of events in the 2021 Cricket Celebration Bowl, the favorite Jackson State Tigers went down to the South Carolina State Bulldogs, 31-10 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium before a bowl record 48,653 fans. Traditionally known for their great defensive units, South Carolina State held Jackson to Celebration Bowl lows in team rushing yards (19) and total yards (194), and their defensive effort resulted in the largest victory margin (21 points). The Tigers bolted out to a 7-0 first quarter lead on Shedeur Sanders’ seven-yard strike to Keith Corbin III, with 7:24 left. S.C. State would then catch fi re, outscoring the Tigers, 31-3 over the final three periods, seizing control of the game for good in the second quarter with a 10-point flurry in the final minutes, on a Corey Fields six-yard strike to Shaquan Davis with 2:08 left, followed by a 26-yard fi eld goal by Gayvn Zimmerman with eight seconds left in the half. SCSU’s Fields tossed four scoring passes, fi nishing with 164 yards (12 of 31, one INT), while JSU’s Sanders passed for 175 yards (16 of 36, two INTs). SCSU’s Shaquan Davis was the Bowl’s Offensive MVP with five catches for 95 yards and three scores — a Celebration Bowl record. Decobie Durant earned Defensive MVP honors. RECORDS FELL SATURDAY as Celebration Bowl history was rewritten…. SCSU’s punter Dyson Roberts set four Bowl records: Longest Punt (74 yards), Most Punts (8), Most Punt Yardage (392) and Best Average (49.0).


COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 18 Cricket Celebration Bowl South Carolina State V Jackson State


North Carolina A&T 64, Alcorn State 44
Mercedes-Benz Stadium – Atlanta, GA

Box Score

North Carolina A&T and Alcorn State combined to set several records at the 2019 Celebration Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which the Aggies won 64-44. N.C. A&T captured its second straight win and its fourth overall championship title. N.C. A&T and Alcorn were meeting for the second consecutive year and the third time in the five-year history of the event. Celebration Bowl records established, among others, were most points combined (108), most points in a quarter (49), most touchdown passes in a quarter (4 by NC A&T’s Kylil Carter), most TDs in a game (6 by Carter), and most combined total yards (1,034). A&T quarterback Kylil Carter, the Celebration Bowl off ensive MVP, had six touchdown passes — three in the third period — to tie an Aggie program record in leading his squad to the victory. He fi nished 18-30 for 364 yards, hitting four diff erent receivers for touchdowns. Jacob Roberts, with six tackles including one for a loss, and an interception, was the game’s defensive MVP. Alcorn scored fi rst in this contest and led 10-7 with 10:16 left in the half. After the Aggies took at 24-10 lead into halftime, both teams exploded for a combined 49 points (seven TDs) in the third quarter. The Aggies, who scored on eight straight possessions, including seven touchdowns, needed only 13 seconds in the second half to add to their lead, when running back Jah-Maine Martin raced 75 yards on the first play of the third quarter for a score and a 31-17 lead. From there, each team would score three touchdowns apiece to end the quarter at 52-31.


A&T Gatorade Bath


North Carolina A&T 24, Alcorn State 22
Mercedes-Benz Stadium – Atlanta, GA

Box Score

In a rematch of the 2015 Inaugural Celebration Bowl, North Carolina A&T captured their second straight title and third overall, with a 24-22 win over Alcorn State, this time under fi rst-year head coach Sam Washington. The Aggies win gave the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) a 3-1 advantage in the bowl. The Aggies jumped out to a 17-6 lead through the first half of play, but Alcorn state scored 10 unanswered points in the third quarter to pull within one at 17-16. But just as the Braves appeared to have momentum, the Aggies’ Malik Wilson took the kickoff at his 12, got to the outside and raced untouched for an 88-yard touchdown that put his team ahead 24-16. Alcorn State QB Noah Johnson led his team on a nine-play, 92-yard touchdown drive to move to 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 Chris Blair for what appeared to be the tying 2-point conversion; however, it was called no good as he juggled the ball while going out of bounds. The Braves, despite the loss, rolled up 451 yards total off ense, including 328 yards on the ground. Johnson completed 12-21 passes for 123 yards and ran for 120 yards and two touchdowns on 14 rushing attempts. De’Shawn Waller led the Alcorn running attack with 167 yards. A&T’s Raynard was named Off ensive MVP, while Aggies free safety Richie Kittles picked up Defensive MVP honors.


A&T Trophy Confetti


North Carolina A&T 21, Grambling State 14
Mercedes-Benz Stadium – Atlanta, GA

Box Score

North Carolina A&T State capped off an historic season with a 21-14 win over Grambling State in 2017 Celebration Bowl. It was one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the year. The Aggies were undefeated (11-0) heading into the Celebration Bowl, with staple wins on the road over non-conference opponents Gardner-Webb and UNC-Charlotte. Grambling, riding an 11-game win streak after dropping their first game of the season, was returning to the Celebration Bowl for a second straight season, defeating North Carolina Central in 2016. After a scoreless first quarter, both teams were able to put seven points on the board in the final five minutes of the half. But it was the Aggies who would strike first and last in the second half. Marquell Cartwright, who earned Offensive MVP honors, raced 29-yards for his second touchdown of the game, to give North Carolina A&T a 14-7 lead in the third. They would seal the victory in the fi nal 1:42 with a seven-play, 56-yard drive, capped off by a one-yard touchdown run by quarterback Lamar Raynard. Franklin McClain III was the defensive MVP. With the win, the Aggies completed a perfect 12-0 season, while the loss dropped Grambling’s final 2017 record to 11-2. The Aggies became the first MEAC team to compile a 12-0 campaign, including the postseason.


Celebration Bowl December 16, 2017


Grambling State 10, North Carolina Central 9
Georgia Dome – Atlanta, GA

Box Score

Defense was the name of the game in this 2016 Celebration Bowl showdown between two teams riding nine game win streaks. Grambling State’s Joseph McWilliams blocked a potential game-tying extra point by North Carolina Central’s Brandon McLaren with 2:14 remaining and the Tigers held on for a 10-9 win over North Carolina Central in a wild finish at the Georgia Dome. The Eagles, hindered by poor field position most of the second half, drove 59 yards in fi ve plays, with quarterback Malcolm Bell linking up with a wide-open Quentin Atkinson from 39 yards out to pull NCCU within 10-9 with 2:14 on the fourth-period clock. But a costly penalty by Atkinson for removing his helmet in celebration drew a 15-yard penalty assessed on the extra point try. Grambling State’s Martez Carter and Jameer Jackson were named the Offensive and Defensive Most Valuable Players. Carter led the GSU ground game with 12 carries for 109 yards, including a 32-yard scoring run that put Grambling ahead 7-3 midway the third. Jackson recorded five unassisted tackles and a key interception.


2016 - Post Game & Trophy Ceremony - Photo 011


North Carolina A&T 41, Alcorn State 34
Georgia Dome – Atlanta, GA

Box Score

There couldn’t have been a better beginning to the inaugural Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, which kicked-off the 2015 college football post season. Alcorn State (SWAC Champion) erased a 24-6 deficit in the second half but fell short to North Carolina A&T (MEAC Champion) 41-34 in a thrilling victory by the Aggies. The game started with a bang and never looked back, as both teams scored early in the first quarter on special teams plays – a 74-yard punt return for A&T and an 83-yard kick-off return for Alcorn State. When North Carolina A&T finally put their offense on the field it was clear why Tarik Cohen was the topic of discussion heading into this game. Cohen had five carries for 166 yards in the first quarter, scoring on back-to-back touchdown runs of 74-yards and 83-yards. Cohen earned offensive Most Valuable Player honors as he rushed for a game-high 295 yards and three touchdowns, including the game winner. Denzel Jones was selected as defensive Most Valuable Player. He led the Aggies with seven tackles and one interception.