ATLANTA – Quarterback Davius Richard ran for 97 yards and two touchdowns, including a 1-yard scoring plunge in overtime, and North Carolina Central beat Jackson State 41-34 in Saturday’s Celebration Bowl to spoil coach Deion Sanders‘ bid for an undefeated season in his final game with the Tigers.
The Eagles’ defense made a goal-line stand on Jackson State’s first overtime possession to preserve the win. Tight end Hayden Hagler‘s drop on third down from the 1 set up an incompletion by Jackson State quarterback Shedeur Sanders to end the game regarded as the championship of teams from historically Black college and universities.
Sanders’ 19-yard touchdown pass to Travis Hunter as time expired in regulation set up Alejandro Mata’s tying extra point to send the game to overtime. It was the fourth scoring pass of the game for Sanders, who also ran for a score.
Jackson State (12-1) was denied its bid for the first undefeated season in school history. Coach Deion Sanders is taking over the football program at Colorado, but wanted to finish the season with his Tigers first. Shedeur Sanders will accompany his father to Boulder.
The win by N.C. Central (10-2) gave the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference a 6-1 edge over teams from the Southwestern Athletic Conference in the Celebration Bowl.
Latrell Collier’s 7-yard scoring run with 4:31 remaining gave NCCU the lead. The Tigers answered with a 15-play drive that included Sanders’ 10-yard, fourth-down pass to T.J. Martin.
Richard passed for 177 yards with a touchdown and ran for 97 yards and two scores. Richard showed his versatility on a three-yard drive for game’s first touchdown. Richard had a 21-yard run, a 30-yard catch on a trick play and a 5-yard scoring run that gave the Eagles a 10-0 lead.
Sanders quickly showed he also boasts dual-threat skills as Jackson State outscored North Carolina Central 21-7 the remainder of the half. Sanders completed 13 of 14 passes for 178 yards and two touchdown and had four carries for 34 yards with another score in the half, the Tigers a 21-17 lead.
A fake punt early in the second half helped the Eagles reclaim the lead. Tight end Kyle Morgan took the snap on the fake punt and ran 43 yards to the Jackson State 24. Richard’s 12-yard scoring pass to Quentin Mcall gave North Carolina Central a 23-21 lead following Adrian Olivo’s missed extra point.
Olivo’s 21-yard field goal late in the third quarter pushed the lead to five points.
COMMISH IN THE CROWD
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell attended the game in support of his nephew, Jackson State sophomore defensive lineman Charlton “Charlie” Goodell. The younger Goodell is the son of Roger Goodell’s brother.
North Carolina Central: The Eagles relied on their stronger running game. A balanced running attack led by Richard and Latrell Collier gave N.C. Central a 276-78 advantage in rushing yards.
Jackson State: The Tigers were resilient in responding to an early 10-0 deficit. Sanders was the key, producing as a runner and passer while leading the comeback.
North Carolina Central: The Eagles will look for back-to-back Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) championships when they open their 2023 season at North Carolina A&T on Sept. 3.
Jackson State: With wide receivers coach T.C. Taylor moving up as the new coach, the Tigers will return to Atlanta to open the 2023 season against South Carolina State in the Cricket MEAC-SWAC Challenge.