On December 16, 2017, America witnessed perhaps an unbreakable record happen in sports, live on ABC television. In the world of black college football, where FCS-level teams play Division I-FBS programs for revenue, the North Carolina A&T Aggies football team went an undefeated 12-0, won the Black College Football National Championship, and prevailed in the third edition of the Celebration Bowl with a 21-14 win over Grambling State (11-2) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. It may be a while before another unbeaten team emerges from black college football. A&T had never had a 12-0 finish in the 93-year history of Aggie football and neither had any team in the MEAC since its inception in 1971.
“I’m just extremely proud of our players and the job our coaching staff has done,” said N.C. A&T coach Rod Broadway. “It’s an awesome feeling right now to be 12-0 and to win our second national championship in three years at A&T. I’m happy for our school. We’ve come a long way.”
The outcome is even more special in that 10 years ago, the Aggies were coming off their second straight 0-11 season. Today, they are the kings of black college football, a top-10 team in the Football Championship Subdivision and have gone from winless to unbeaten in a decade.
There was a lot of history between the Grambling State Tigers and North Carolina A&T Aggies as they squared off in the Celebration Bowl. Both teams had won the game once each since its inception in 2015. A&T won this one in true championship fashion.
With the game tied at 14, the Aggies took over at their own 44-yard line with 1:42 remaining in the game. On 2nd-and-10, A&T quarterback and MEAC Offensive Player of the Year Lamar Raynard (6-4, 200, High Point, NC) dumped a short pass over the middle to All-MEAC first-team running back Marquell Cartwright (5-8, 201, High Point, NC).
As Cartwright made his initial move up the field he started to bobble the ball and it eventually hit the Mercedes-Benz turf. A GSU defender picked the ball up as if it were a fumble and returned it the other way. Before he got too far, the officials ruled the play an incomplete pass. GSU coach Broderick Fobbs wasn’t so sure, so he challenged the play. The call of incomplete pass was upheld, costing the Tigers their final timeout.
Raynard then proceeded to lead his team to another championship. He completed a 19-yard pass to Gardin. Raynard then completed another pass to his high school teammate, Cartwright, and Cartwright took the catch and run play to the GSU 18. Then junior Elijah Bell (6-1, 221, WR, Wheeling, WVa.) made an amazing catch for a 15-yard gain to the GSU 3 for the final catch of his 10-reception, 95-yard day.
The Aggies, victims of a goal line stand earlier in the game, would not be denied with the game on the line. After a 2-yard Cartwright run, the Aggies hurried to the line and snuck Raynard through for a 1-yard touchdown with 38 seconds remaining. The Tigers could not answer.
Cartwright was named the game’s offensive MVP after finishing with 110 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. His three receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown gave him 164 all-purpose yards against the Tigers.
Major College Football Playoffs January 1 and 8
The NCAA FBS National Championship will be determined in Atlanta, GA on Monday, Jan. 8, 2018 in the CFP National Championship Bowl. The game will match the two Semi-final winners in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium at 7:00pm Central Time. The Semi-final games are Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, with the Rose Bowl between (3) Georgia vs. (2) Oklahoma in Pasadena, CA, at 4:00pm CT; and the Sugar Bowl between (4) Alabama vs. (1) Clemson in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA, at 7:45pm CT. All games air live on ESPN.