HOUSTON, TX - North Carolina Central battled through the 600+ day layoff from action and upset Alcorn State 23-14 in the 2021 MEAC/SWAC Challenge.
Alcorn led 7-0 after QB Felix Harper connected with WR Juan Anthony for a 20-yard touchdown in a 10-play, 65-yard opening drive. All things appeared according to plan for the Braves early in the contest.
N.C. Central's defense allowed Alcorn's offense to move the football in the first half but prevented them from finishing drives.
Both teams seesawed on subsequent drives until NC Central's quarterback Davius Richard took over the game. With the clock winding down in the first half, Richard decided to call his number. The 6-3, 200-pound signal-caller barreled over a Braves defender to score a 6-yard touchdown and even the battle 7-7 with 23 seconds left before halftime. The Eagles looked confident, and the Braves were seeking answers.
Quarterback Davius Richard took a 1-yard plunge into the endzone after leading a 9-play, 75-yard drive to open the second half. ASU blocked Olivio's extra-point attempt. NCCU captured a 13-7 lead - but was short-lived.
Eagles' punter mishandled the snap and gave Alcorn prime real estate at the 28-yard line. N.C. Central's defense created a 4th and goal scenario for the Braves. However, Harper slung a four-yard pass to RB Duffey off of a rub-route for the touchdown. Alcorn reclaimed the advantage, 14-13, with 2:19 left in the 3rd quarter. The drive was for six plays, 28 yards, and used 2:38 of the clock.
Central's RB Jorden Freeman cut up the field for 30 yards at Alcorn's 45-yard line. Richard kept making solid decisions at quarterback with a check down to Isiah Macklin for 12 yards. Freeman ran twice for 16 yards and was wearing down the Braves' defensive front. The Eagles were threatening to score at the 13-yard line. ASU's defense did not break and yielded an Olivo field goal. The Eagles would lead 16-14 in the 4th quarter from an eight-play, 64-yard touchdown march in 3:40 minutes. NCCU never looked back.
It was Alcorn's time to respond. Again the Braves center snapped the football too high for Harper and was flagged for intentional grounding. The possession stalled.
Two plays later, punt returner Brandon Codrington and his 4.3 speed weaved through Alcorn's special teams unit down the right sideline for a 77-yard touchdown with 13: 39 left on the game clock. Olivo boomed the extra point and expanded NCCU's lead to 9 points, 23-14.
Alcorn could not answer with points for the remainder of the tilt. NC Central's Richard converted two third-down plays on the team's final drive and left little time on the clock for the Braves to respond.
Give Eagles head coach Trei Oliver and his staff credit. His team played as a team. Credit goes to NC Central's defense for halting several ASU drives with a bend-don't-break approach to the game. Alcorn State may have been a bit overconfident, but NCCU played as a team the entire match before 15,215 attendees at Center Parc Stadium.
The MEAC continued its dominance over the SWAC in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge. There's still many a game left to be played this season before the Cricket Celebration Bowl culminates the seasons for the MEAC and SWAC champions in Atlanta this December 18. In the meantime, 2021 will be an exciting season for both conferences.
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
- Offense: QB Davius Richard, NCCU
- Defense: DB Manny Smith, NCCU
Quarterbacks - (Alcorn) F. Harper: 17/27, 154 yards, 2 TD, 3 Sacks; (NCCU) D. Richard: 16/25 184 yards, 1 INT, 0 TD passing, 2 TD rushing, 64 yards rushing
Running Backs - (Alcorn) S. Anderson: 11 carries for 128 yards, 69 yards, longest; (NCCU) J. Freeman: 9 carries for 72 yards.
Receivers - (Alcorn) J. Anthony: 5 rec, 66 yards, 1 TD; L. Pringle: 4 rec, 41 yards; (NCCU) R. McDaniel: 6 rec, 72 yards.
Special Teams - (Alcorn) N. Duffey: 3 KR for 42 yards, C. Thompson, 3 KOs for 195 yards, T. Adams - 4 punts for 143 yards; (NCCU) B Codrington - 2 returns, 83 yards, 1 TD, Olivo - 5 KOs, 239 yards, J. Velarde - 3 Punts for 83 yards.
Defensive Leaders - (Alcorn) K. Kinsler- 7.5 tackles, J. Taylor - 6.5 tackles; (NCCU) M. Smith - 9 tackles, 1 Sack, 1 TFL, 1 FF, 1 FR
BEHIND THE GAME
Kickoff time: 7:07 pm • End of Game: 10:34 pm • Total elapsed time: 3:27
Officials: Referee: Bobby Wright; Umpire: Trent Crawford; Linesman: Tangela Mitchel; Line judge: Ashante Jordan; Back judge: Brandon Bullock; Field judge: Martin Morgan; Side judge: Cecil Copeland; Center judge: Y.N. Myers;
Temperature: 90 • Wind: 9 mph ESE • Weather: Sunny with mild wind