Brandon Codrington took a fourth-quarter punt on one bounce then left everyone behind with a 77-yard return and North Carolina Central opened the season with a 23-14 victory over Alcorn State in the 16th MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff on Saturday at Center Parc Stadium.

The victory was the Eagles’ first over the Braves in their six-game series history. Both teams were playing for the first time since the end of the 2019 season.

The Eagles fell behind 7-0 after their first three drives ended in punts. But they found their footing, scoring on four of their next five possessions, including a pair of touchdown runs by Davius Richard and Adrian Olivo’s field goal before Codrington’s punt return. The one non-scoring possession during that run ended with a fumble, which led to Alcorn State’s second touchdown.

Richard threw for 184 yards and rushed for 64.

Alcorn State’s Felix Harper threw two touchdown passes and Stadford Anderson rushed for 128 yards on 11 carries.