ATLANTA – The North Carolina A&T Aggies captured its third Celebration Bowl title in four years with a 24-22 win over Alcorn State on Saturday afternoon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
The Aggies led the entire game, but it was Malik Wilson’s 79-yard game winning return with 38 seconds left in the third quarter that gave A&T the 24-16 lead. Alcorn didn’t take long to respond and capped a drive of nine plays under four minutes with a 59-yard touchdown run by Noah Johnson at the 11:55 mark, cutting A&T’s lead to 24-22. The Braves attempted a two-point conversion that would have tied the game however A&T’s defense was able to stop the Braves.
A&T set the tone early in the game and held a comfortable 17-6 advantage at the half. Lamar Raynard threw a 17-yard pass to Zachary Leslie in the opening drive of the game to give the Aggies a 7-0 lead with 12:38 in the first quarter. Alcorn cut in A&T’s lead with a 29-yard field goal by Corey McCullough with less than three minutes in the first.
Noel Ruiz nailed a 36-yard field goal at the 8:33 mark in the second quarter which stretched A&T’s lead to 10-3. With 53 seconds remaining in the half, Raynard connected with Elijah Bell on a 27-yard pass pushing the Aggies to a 17-3 lead. The Braves used a 25-yard field goal by McCullough as time expired in the second quarter cutting A&T’s advantage to 17-6.
Raynard was impressive in the win and was 18-of-30 passing for 292 yards. Leslie caught six passes and finished with 119 yards. A&T’s kicking game was fueled by Wilson who finished with 112 yards on four returns including a touchdown.
The Aggies finished the season with a 10-2 record and its first Celebration Bowl win for head coach Sam Washington. Alcorn State finished the season 9-4 overall.