ATLANTA — In NCAA Football, going undefeated is somewhat common. We’ve seen schools like Ohio State, Boise State, TCU, Florida State, and Auburn go undefeated in recent years. And even having less than two losses on the season is even more common. But in HBCU Football, finishing a season undefeated is rare. With most HBCU’s having to play bigger FBS and FCS schools for monetary purposes, hopes of going undefeated are just not in the gameplan. On this past Saturday, a team finished undefeated. That school was North Carolina A&T.
North Carolina A&T completed the first undefeated season in MEAC history by defeating Grambling State, 21-14 in the Celebration Bowl. Both teams came in with 11 wins, showcasing the best two HBCU FCS teams from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and the South Western Athletic Conference (SWAC).
Coming into this matchup, true HBCU Football fans expected a shootout. The 1st Quarter of this matchup had no points at all. The defenses of the Tigers and Aggies took over the game early on. In the 2nd quarter, A&T struck first. MEAC Offense Player of the Year, Lamar Raynard completed an 11 Yard touchdown pass to Marquell Cartwright after a short 25 yard drive. Gramling responded with a Touchdown from Devante Kincade after a 70-yard drive to tie the game at 7 with 0:43 seconds left in the 1st Half.
In the 2nd half, the defenses of both teams slowed the game down until Marquell Cartwright ran for a 29-yard touchdown run with 7:36 left in the 3rd quarter. In typical Grambling fashion, they responded with another long touchdown drive. This time, Devante Kincade connected with Martez Carter from 29 yards out. After this drive, both teams went scoreless for over 14 minutes. After 3 combined counts and 1 fumble by Grambling, North Carolina A&T found the end zone one more time. Lamar Raynard scored a 1-yard touchdown with 0:38 seconds left in the game after a 56-yard drive.
Raynard’s touchdown sealed the win for North Carolina A&T as well as their undefeated season. Both teams combined for over 700 Yards in the instant classic. Grambling went to 1-1 in Celebration Bowl games after winning in 2017. A&T is now 2-0 in the game after the win.
Marquell Cartwright was named MVP of the Game. Tarik Cohen, current NFL Running Back and North Carolina A&T legend won the same award in 2015.
Monsters of the MEAC
GWU (45-3), Mars Hill (56-0), UNCC (35-31), Morgan (49-17), S.C. State (21-7), Del State (44-3), FAMU (31-20), B-CU (24-20), Norfolk St. (35-7), SSU (36-17), NCCU (24-10), GSU (21-14).
North Carolina A&T’s season was one for the record books. Although Howard’s win over UNLV was more publicised, North Carolina A&T also beat an FBS team as well. The Aggies beat UNC Charlotte. What makes this so special is that A&T has already completed the feat before. On the road in 2016, NCAT traveled to Kent State and beat the MAC team early in the season. Getting over the non-conference schedule is a hump for any HBCU team. But once A&T swept their slate, the MEAC was put on alert.
Bethune Cookman gave North Carolina A&T the biggest test in terms of score. Before reaching the Celebration Bowl, North Carolina A&T had to defeat North Carolina Central. Last year, their rivals ended their contention for the MEAC Championship and Celebration Bowl berth. In 2015, despite winning the Celebration Bowl, the Aggies still lost to NCCU. The last 10 meetings are split into 5 wins for both schools. But this time around, North Carolina A&T was on top with an important 24-10 win. With Former NCCU Head Coach, Jerry Mack leaving for Ric University. The Aggies are truly set to dominate the MEAC for a while unless a few teams step up (I’ll mention that later).
The Aggie Attack
North Carolina A&T featured a loaded team on both sides of the ball. The Aggies are 25th in the FCS with 426.8 total yards per game and also ranks 11th in the FCS in scoring offense. Lead by Black College Football Player of the Year candidate Lamar Raynard, the Aggies ranked 24th in FCS Passing Offense. Celebration Bowl MVP Marquell Cartwright helped the team to rank 42nd in FCS Rushing Offense. With 258.4 yards allowed per game, North Carolina A&T ranks 4th in total defense in the FCS. Which is rare for HBCU’s.
On the MEAC side of things, the Aggies are ranked first in:
Scoring Offense, Scoring Defense, Total Defense, Rushing Defense, Pass Offense, Interceptions, Sacks, First Downs, and 4th Down Conversions.
Overall, the Aggies are dominant and are led by many stars.
Marquell Cartwright: 1000+ Rushing Yards and 13+ Touchdowns
Offensive MVP – @NCATAGGIES Junior RB Marquell Cartwright
— #CelebrationBowl? (@CelebrationBowl) December 16, 2017
Lamar Raynard: 2700+ Passing Yards and 26+ Touchdowns
Elijah Bell: 800+ Receiving Yards and 10+ Touchdowns
Brandon Parker: No Sacks allowed in 4 years as starter (NFL O-Line Prospect)
HBCU Players to Watch in this NFL Draft: (Thread)
1. Brandon Parker ( T- NC A&T)
He’s started all for years at A&T & has never given up a sack. Oh yea, and he cleared the outside for Tarik Cohen a few times.pic.twitter.com/P7Zjycoqly
— Maliik (@Obee1ne) December 15, 2017
Brandon McCain: 46 Tackles, 5 Interceptions, 3 Interceptions for Touchdowns
Jeremy Taylor: 65 Tackles, 5 Interceptions
Wins on Broadway
Rod Broadway head coaching timeline
— The Undefeated (@TheUndefeated) December 16, 2017
In his last two games coached, Rod Broadway defeated two of his former employers: North Carolina Central and Grambling State. Unlike other dominant HBCU coaches within the past decade, Rod Broadway has stayed at HBCU’s when reaching success. And his success is legendary. He has won a Black College National Championship in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2015, and now 2017.
He holds a 122-45 coaching record in total between his stints at Grambling, North Carolina Central, and North Carolina A&T. He went 33-11 at North Carolina Central while winning 3 CIAA West Division titles (2004–2006). Broadway went 35-12 at Grambling and winning 3 SWAC West Division titles (2007–2008, 2010). He won the 2008 SWAC Championship as well. At North Carolina A&T, he is currently 57-22 and the winner of 3 MEAC Championships.
What’s rare about Broadway is that he has completed transformed programs and all programs he coached still thrived after he coached as well.
We will see what’s next for A&T. Brandon Parker and a few of his teammates will most likely be drafted to the NFL. A&T is primed to stay in MEAC Title contention although Howard and Bethune Cookman is their strongest 2018 contenders on paper right now. Rod Broadway will most likely get a few offers from other schools but his love for HBCU’s will shine through.
But right now, North Carolina A&T is the best HBCU Football team in the land
Lead Image Credit / AJC Sports