Bryan Fulford (from various news sources) | December 22, 2019

ATLANTANorth Carolina A&T quarterback Kylil Carter missed the 2018 Celebration Bowl and served as backup in 2 previous appearances by his team. He would not miss a chance to create history for his team, program and self in 2019 for his last collegiate football game.

The grad senior starting his first season for the Aggies after serving as a backup for four seasons threw a career-high, school-tying and bowl record six touchdown passes as North Carolina A&T won their third straight Celebration Bowl defeating Alcorn State for the second straight year, 64-44. It was a record-breaking offensive game against two of the best scoring defenses in black college football this season.

Carter, a Georgia native, who played at South Cobb HS located in NW Atlanta-area, completed 18 of 30 passes for 364 yards and 96 yards rushing in 13 attempts. The Aggies offense gained 574 yards of total offense, a bowl record. Combined with the Brave’s 460 yards of total offense, the two teams combined for a Celebration Bowl record 1,034 yards of total offense.

“I just give all the praise to my guys, offensive linemen and my receivers,” Carter said. “Without them, it wouldn’t have been possible. I give them all the praise.”^

“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.”^

Carter’s touchdown total and total offensive yards weren’t the only records of the game as the teams combined for 108 total points, 45 total first downs, 49 total points in a quarter (3rd), 74 total points in a half (2nd), and most points scored in a quarter by a team (28 by NC A&T in 3rd) in front of the 32,968 which was the second-largest crowd since the inaugural crowd of 35,528 in 2015.  Both teams surpassed the previous game-high 41 points scored by the Aggies in that inaugural game, which was also against Alcorn State.

“What a game,” Aggies coach Sam Washington said. “Offensively, I thought both teams played well. Defensively, not so much, … It was very entertaining.”#

Best Bowl Quarter Ever?

The record-breaking third quarter may be something unseen in college football for years to come as touchdowns were scored in seven consecutive possessions. The scoring started from the very first play as NC A&T running back Jah-Main Martin, held to one yard on seven carries in the first half, took the first play of the second-half 75 yards for a score to give the Aggies a 31-10 lead. 

Martin would finish the game with 110 yards rushing on 15 carries with 2 touchdowns. The FCS leader in rushing yards per carry would end the game with an average of 7.3 per carry and completed his record-setting season with 1,446 yards rushing (7.73 per carry) and 23 touchdowns, a single-season school record.

“First half, it didn’t go my way,” Martin said. “My teammates were telling me to keep my head up, because it’s going to be there. They were right. My O-line got the job done. First play, I hit the crease and there it was. I’ve got to shout out to ‘Trouble,’ my fullback William Simpson. I just followed him, and ain’t nobody getting through him.”*

Following Martin’s run, the Braves scored on Felix Harper 6-yard run in a 10-play drive that took 3:10, cutting the deficit to 31-17. Harper, the SWAC Offensive Player of the Year, is from the Atlanta-area as well having played at Creekside HS.

1:31 seconds later, A&T scored in four plays when Carter’s 4th touchdown pass to his fourth different receiver went 43 yards to Ron Hunt.

It only took 0:57 for Alcorn State to answer as De’Shawn Waller, also an Atlanta-area native, scored on a 23-yard run on the 3rd play of the possession to reduce the Aggies lead to 38-24.  A&T’s longest drive of the quarter (10 plays, 68 yards, 4:13) would be their answer as Carter’s fifth touchdown was a 20-yard play to Elijah Bell increasing the lead to 45-24.

The Braves answered again in just over 1 minute (1:07), 3 plays and 75 yards, as Harper would connect with Raidarious Anderson for 35 yards to bring the Aggies lead down to 45-31. Two plays later Carter’s sixth touchdown pass would be to Korey Banks for a 73-yard scoring play that increased the lead back to 21 points, 52-31.  The only possession of the quarter that did not yield a touchdown came following the Carter-to-Banks score as Alcorn State would punt after 5 plays.

Harper, completed 25 of 42 passes, 341 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT, along with 2 rushing TDs on 9 carries. Wide receiver Chris Blair caught 7 passes for 150 yards and 1 TD.

While Carter was named offensive MVP of the Celebration Bowl for his performance, and A&T freshman linebacker Jacob Roberts was named the defensive MVP. Roberts had six tackles, 1 tackle-for-loss, and an interception that he returned 28 yards to the 5-yard line. The INT would lead to a Noel Ruiz FG and a 17-10 2nd quarter lead for the Aggies.

“I knew I had to get to the flats on that play,” Roberts said. “I sprinted as hard as I could, and I saw the ball coming. I was like, ‘I’ve got to catch this, I’ve got to catch this.’ I got the ball in my hands, and I wanted to score. I tried, but that didn’t work out the way I wanted it to.”*

The National Championship Debate

The previous two Celebration Bowl victories led to undisputed recognition of NC A&T as the black college national champions. This victory will not be undisputed. 

Despite ESPN/ABC and the Celebration Bowl recognizing the Aggies as three-time black college national champions, there are media outlets, including the Black College Sports Network, and polls that had Florida A&M (9-2) ranked ahead of the Aggies entering the bowl game and may vote the Rattlers No.1 in their final poll above A&T.

Due to FAMU’s self-imposed postseason ban and the MEAC declaring that FAMU would not be recognized as conference champions, the debate as to whom will be voted and considered 2019 Black College National Champions will rest with arguments that the Rattlers finished the season with the best conference record (7-1), fewest losses and defeated NC A&T (34-31), as well as South Carolina State (42-38). NC A&T and SC State finished with a 6-2 conference record and were recognized as MEAC co-champions. SC State’s losses were to FAMU and A&T.

Regardless of the undisputed claim and final polls, not since Winston-Salem State’s run of three national championships from 2011-2013 has a team been in a position to say they were black college national champions three consecutive seasons. That is the legacy that Carter can say he was part of, contributed towards, and helped win for North Carolina A&T, his teammates, and himself.

quotes from:
*Greensboro News & Record
#Associated Press
^AJC.com