Photo via ESPN Images/North Carolina Central athletics
For the first time since the “Team of the Week” was introduced last season at Fifth Quarter, an FCS school takes home the honor.
This week’s honor goes to North Carolina Central, which won the MEAC/SWAC Challenge. The Eagles started the 2021 season on the right foot on Saturday night with an impressive 23-14 victory over Alcorn State in Atlanta.
NC Central Emerges Late
North Carolina Central was on the short end of a 14-13 score after three quarters on Saturday night. Less than four minutes into the final period, the Eagles had a 2-score lead.
After Adrian Olivo’s short field goal with 13:39 remaining put the Eagles ahead for good, the defense stood tall. North Carolina Central forced a punt and Brandon Cordington proceeded to return a punt 77 yards for a touchdown.
Each of the next two possessions for Alcorn State reached North Carolina Central, but each came up empty. The Eagles were able to put the game away with a time-consuming 11-play drive.
As a team, North Carolina Central rushed for more than 200 yards. Three different players eclipsed the 50-yard mark on the ground.
Jorden Freeman led the way with 72 yards. Davius Richard scored both offensive touchdowns in the victory.
Both touchdowns for Alcorn State came on passes from Felix Harper. Manny Smith led the NC Central defense with 10 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Colby Warrior also had a sack and forced fumble in the victory. The Eagles finished with 391 yards of total offense to 343 for the Braves.
Defying the Odds and Continuing Trends
Entering Saturday’s contest, North Carolina Central was a 15.5-point underdog. The wide spread however, didn’t matter to the Eagles.
In recent years, the MEAC has had the upper hand on the SWAC in Atlanta. Going back to 2015, the MEAC had been 4-1 in the Celebration Bowl.
The lone loss for the MEAC in the Celebration Bowl had been by North Carolina Central when it fell to Grambling State in 2016. Alcorn State has gone 0-3 in the Celebration Bowl.
Now 1-0 for the first time since 2015, North Carolina Central will face an even bigger challenge this week. The Eagles will travel to Huntington to take on Marshall.
It will be the season opener for the Thundering Herd. North Carolina Central last played an FBS opponent in 2018 when it fell at Duke, 55-13.