After a slow start, the Aggies found their rhythm in the second quarter. With Alcorn State stifling the run game, the game rested on Carter’s arm. The senior delivered with vertical shots down the field.
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Carter completed 18 of 30 passes for 364 yards. He set the school record for most touchdowns in a game. He also eclipsed several Celebration Bowl records as he won offensive MVP.
He connected with receiving duo Elijah Bell and Zachary Leslie combined for 10 catches, 203 yards and three touchdowns.
Redshirt junior Korey Banks led the Aggies with 122 receiving yards. He hauled in two touchdowns, including a 73-yard pass in the third quarter.
“We watched film on them for a couple of weeks,” Carter said. “With heavy play action, we knew they would try to come down. We just wanted to go over the top and let the receivers make a play.”
The Aggies accounted for 574 yards of total offense. They averaged 9.0 yards per play and converted 7 of 13 on third down. FCS standout Jah-Maine Martin bounced back from a down first half with 109 second-half rushing yards.
Martin scored two touchdowns after halftime. He opened the second-half with a 75-yard touchdown and sealed the victory with a four-yard run the fourth quarter.
“The end of the second quarter there, we were able to get some quick strikes,” Aggies head coach Sam Washington said.
Alcorn State didn’t go away easily. After surrendering 24 unanswered points, the Braves battled back in the third quarter. Felix Harper led the comeback with five total (two rushing) touchdowns.
Harper threw for 341 yards and kept the Braves close with timely plays. In the third quarter, he capped off a 10-play, 75-yard drive with a rushing touchdown. Later, Harper found tight end Nigel Wood on a 13-yard pass to bring the Braves within 14 points.
The Braves would close the deficit to 11 points in the fourth quarter. However, a fumbled extra-point snap was returned by the Aggies. Amir McNeill’s 98-yard return effectively put the game out of reach.
“Our plan was to stop North Carolina A&T’s offense, but we didn’t do a good job at that,” Braves head coach Fred McNair said.
The Braves fell to 0-3 against the Aggies in the Celebration Bowl. They finish 9-4 and head home looking to reload next season.
“Three times against the same team is tough,” McNair said. “You have to look back at the things you did and the things you didn’t do. … The things we have to improve, we will get back to work on.”
The Aggies improved to 9-3 this season. They joined Winston-Salem State (2011-2013) as the latest teams to win three consecutive HBCU National Championships.
“I’m very proud of my football team,” Washington said. “I thought they played with a lot of courage, effort, and want to. They came out very confident. They started fast and finished strong. I am very proud of that.”