The Costly Penalty:
Grambling defeated North Carolina Central 10-9 Saturday in the second annual Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl.
NC Central’s Quentin Atkinson caught a 39-yard touchdown pass with 2:14 remaining in the game, closing the Grambling State lead to 10-9 in a game that looked like it would be heading into overtime. But Atkinson removed his helmet in the touchdown celebration, as the wide receiver sprinted up his own sideline. Out came an official’s penalty flag, costing North Carolina State 15 yards on the extra-point attempt — which was then blocked.
After a failed onside-kick attempt, Grambling State became the champions of HBCU football.
Both teams came into the game in the top 20 of the latest FCS Coaches Poll (released Nov. 21). Grambling at 14th, and North Carolina Central at 18th. This is the first season the Eagles have been in the FCS poll, with their first appearance coming in the Nov. 7 poll at No. 25.
Grambling captured its 14th HBCU national championship. Tennessee State (12) has the next-most titles.
The Tigers continue to show how strong progression in three years under coach Broderick Fobbs, who won seven and nine games in his first two years. Fobbs, who played for former coach Eddie Robinson, showed on a national stage the program has returned to prominence as a force among historically black colleges.
The Tigers will return a good talented core next season including quarterback Devante Kincade, as they try to defend their SWAC championship. They’ll need to replace six starters on offense and 10 overall. Key losses from the defense include noseguard Blain Winston and leading tacklers Guy Stallworth and Arkez Cooper.
Grambling State achieved its first 10-win season since 2006 when it finished 11-1 under Rod Broadway, who coincidentally left after that season to become the head coach at Grambling. Next season, the Eagles must replace nine senior starters, including six on offense, as they look to defend their MEAC championship. Freshman Naiil Ramadan was listed as the top backup to Malcolm Bell at quarterback. The Eagles also lose four of their five starting offensive linemen, with only left tackle Nick Leverett returning.