North Carolina Central denied Jackson State a perfect season Saturday afternoon behind the legs of running back Latrell Collier and the performance of quarterback Davius Richard. They, along with wide receiver E.J. Hicks, led the Eagles to their 41-34 win in the Celebration Bowl.

In overtime, Richard scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on a QB sneak, set up by Collier’s 19-yard run to get his team to the 3-yard line. Collier finished with 140 all-purpose yards, with 98 rushing on 17 carries, and caught all five of the passes thrown his way, for 42 yards and a touchdown.

Richard, the 2022 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference player of the year, broke the N.C. Central single-season record for pass completions, held by Michael Johnson (196, 2011), as he completed 15 of 20 passes, with one touchdown, to reach 199 completions on the season. He finished with two touchdowns among his 22 rushes and recorded the second-longest catch of the day -- his 31-yard touchdown reception from Hicks, who also went 2-of-2 on passes, both to Richard.

ExploreNorth Carolina Central outlasts Jackson State

Richard credited his success Saturday to his team.

“First and foremost, it started off with the game plan,” Richard said. “Coaches did a great job with that, then it went to the offensive line. those five or six guys that played today. Those boys played their hearts out. Some of them could barely walk, so they did a good job doing that, opening up the run game that led to the passing game. Our receivers did a good job tracking the ball and catching balls that came their way and making plays.

The running backs, those boys ran with an edge on their shoulder, but I’m not surprised. They do that every week. We have a two-back system, and they did their job.”

Everyone pitched in to do their part, including Hicks, who caught three passes for 84 yards.

N.C. Central 41, Jackson State 34 (OT)

All of that went according to coach Trei Oliver’s plan for the offense to keep Jackson State quarterback Shedeur Sanders off the field as much they could.

“As far as my game plan for today, I told folks we gonna do what we do,” Oliver said. “We run the football, we’re a physical football team, and it starts up front. We let our guys run the rock today, and we saw some things that were open, and we took advantage of them.”

The Eagles executed where they needed to, and now they are the HBCU national champions.