NC Central beats Jackson State in Deion Sanders’ final game

Dec 16, 2022, 11:07 PM | Updated: Dec 17, 2022, 3:17 pm
Jackson State tight end Hayden Hagler drops a pass in the end zone during overtime of the Celebrati...

Jackson State tight end Hayden Hagler drops a pass in the end zone during overtime of the Celebration Bowl NCAA college football game against North Carolina Central, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr. )

(AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr. )

              Jackson State tight end Hayden Hagler drops a pass in the end zone during overtime of the Celebration Bowl NCAA college football game against North Carolina Central, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr. )
            
              North Carolina Central head coach Trei Oliver and defensive back Khalil Baker and, quarterback Davius Richard received their awards and trophy after the celebration Bowl NCAA college football game against Jackson State, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr. )
            
              North Carolina Central head coach Trei Oliver and wide receiver E.J. Hicks pose for a photo after their win over Jackson State in the Celebration Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr. )
            
              North Carolina Central quarterback Davius Richard holds up the offensive player of the game award after the Celebration Bowl NCAA college football game against Jackson State, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr. )
            
              North Carolina Central Eagles wide receiver E.J. Hicks catches a pass during the second half of the Celebration Bowl NCAA college football game Jackson State, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr. )
            
              Jackson State safety Shilo Sanders (21) and cornerback Travis Hunter tackle North Carolina Central running back Latrell Collier during the second half of the Celebration Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr. )
            
              Jackson State safety Shilo Sanders tackles North Carolina Central wide receiver Twan Flip Jr. during the second half of the Celebration Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr. )
            
              North Carolina Central defensive back JaJuan Hudson knocks Jackson State wide receiver Rico Powers out of bounds during the second half of the Celebration Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr. )
            
              Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders, left, and his son quarterback Shedeur Sanders sing the school's alma mater after the Celebration Bowl NCAA college football game nst North Carolina Central, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr. )
            
              North Carolina Central wide receiver Tynez Warner (86) and wide receiver Jadin Blackwell react after touchdown during the first half of the Celebration Bowl NCAA college football game against Jackson State, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr. )
            
              Jackson State quarterback Shedeur Sanders carries the ball during the half of the Celebration Bowl NCAA college football game against North Carolina Central, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr. )
            
              Jackson State cornerback Travis Hunter blocks North Carolina Central defensive back Brandon Codrington as quarterback Shedeur Sanders, rear, scores a touchdown during the half of the Celebration Bowl NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr. )
            
              North Carolina Central quarterback Davius Richard jumps over Jackson State safety Cam'Ron Silmon-Craig during the first half of the Celebration Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr. )
            
              Jackson State quarterback Shedeur Sanders attempts a pass during the first half of the Celebration Bowl NCAA college football game against North Carolina Central Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr. )
            
              Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders yells during the first half of the Celebration Bowl NCAA college football game against North Carolina Central, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr. )
            
              North Carolina Central quarterback Davius Richard reacts after scoring a touchdown during the half of the Celebration Bowl NCAA college football game against the Jackson State, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr. )

ATLANTA (AP) — Deion Sanders was sentimental before his final game at Jackson State, and those emotions grew after coming up short in the Celebration Bowl for the second straight year.

Quarterback Davius Richard ran for 97 yards and two touchdowns, including a 1-yard scoring plunge in overtime, and North Carolina Central beat Jackson State 41-34 on Saturday in the Celebration Bowl to spoil Sanders’ bid for an undefeated season in his farewell.

It was the second consecutive season that Sanders’ Tigers were favored before losing in the game regarded as the championship of teams from historically Black colleges and universities.

“I feel like we’ve won, but we didn’t win that game,” said Sanders, who now will devote his full attention to his new job as Colorado’s coach. He was tearful in a pregame speech to his players.

“I miss these guys already. I love them,” Sanders said after the game.

The Eagles’ defense made a goal-line stand on Jackson State’s first possession in overtime to preserve the win. Tight end Hayden Hagler’s drop on third down from the 1 set up an incompletion by Jackson State quarterback Shedeur Sanders to end the game.

Sanders’ 19-yard touchdown pass to Travis Hunter as time expired in regulation set up Alejandro Mata’s tying extra point to send the game to OT. It was the fourth scoring pass of the game for Sanders, who also ran for a score.

Jackson State (12-1) was denied its bid for the first undefeated season in school history. Deion Sanders wanted to finish the season with his Tigers first before taking over at Colorado. Shedeur Sanders will accompany his father to Boulder.

The win by N.C. Central (10-2) gave the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference a 6-1 edge over teams from the Southwestern Athletic Conference in the Celebration Bowl.

Eagles coach Trei Oliver said he hopes the victory gives more respect to the MEAC and North Carolina Central after all the pregame attention was on “Coach Prime” and Jackson State.

“They had a chip on their shoulder,” Oliver said of his players. “The disrespect was real since we’ve been down here.”

Latrell Collier’s 7-yard scoring run with 4:31 remaining gave NCCU the lead. The Tigers answered with a 15-play drive that included Sanders’ 10-yard, fourth-down pass to T.J. Martin.

Richard passed for 177 yards with a touchdown and ran for 97 yards and two scores. Richard showed his versatility on a three-yard drive for game’s first touchdown. He had a 21-yard run, a 30-yard catch on a trick play and a 5-yard scoring run that gave the Eagles a 10-0 lead.

Sanders quickly showed he also boasts dual-threat skills as Jackson State outscored North Carolina Central 21-7 the remainder of the half. Sanders completed 13 of 14 passes for 178 yards and two touchdown and had four carries for 34 yards with another score in the half, giving the Tigers a 21-17 lead.

A fake punt early in the second half helped the Eagles reclaim the lead. Tight end Kyle Morgan took the snap on the fake punt and ran 43 yards to the Jackson State 24. Richard’s 12-yard scoring pass to Quentin Mcall gave North Carolina Central a 23-21 lead following Adrian Olivo’s missed extra point.

Olivo’s 21-yard field goal late in the third quarter pushed the lead to five points.

PASSING FANCY

Sanders completed 30 of 40 passes for 349 yards and four touchdowns. A highlight was an 85-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Coleman. The touchdown pass to Hunter at the end of regulation was perhaps the biggest highlight.

“When I threw the ball, all I’ve got to do is put air under it, he’s going to do the rest,” Sanders said of Hunter.

COMMISH IN THE CROWD

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell attended the game in support of his nephew, Jackson State sophomore defensive lineman Charlton “Charlie” Goodell. The younger Goodell is the son of Roger Goodell’s brother.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina Central: The Eagles relied on their stronger running game. A balanced running attack led by Richard and Latrell Collier gave N.C. Central a 276-78 advantage in rushing yards. “Those boys were running with an edge,” Richard said of the Eagles’ running backs.

Jackson State: The Tigers were resilient in responding to an early 10-0 deficit. Sanders was the key, producing as a runner and passer while leading the comeback.

UP NEXT

North Carolina Central: The Eagles will look for back-to-back MEAC championships when they open their 2023 season at North Carolina A&T on Sept. 3.

Jackson State: With wide receivers coach T.C. Taylor moving up as the new coach, the Tigers will return to Atlanta to open the 2023 season against South Carolina State in the Cricket MEAC-SWAC Challenge.

___

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NC Central beats Jackson State in Deion Sanders’ final game