2018 Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl Preview
The 2018 Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl will feature the North Carolina A&T Aggies against the Alcorn State Braves. This matchup pits the 9-2 Aggies against the 9-3 Braves. The game will take place at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on Saturday, December 15. The Celebration Bowl is the only FCS Bowl game given that the Football Championship Series has a playoff system implicated. The game will be featured on ABC at 12:00 pm EST.
North Carolina A&T Offense
Aggies quarterback Lamar Raynard passed for 1,373 yards in the regular season with 16 touchdowns. A dominant force for the Aggies, Raynard is crucial to A&T’s success during Saturday’s matchup against Alcorn State. He does have the ability to run as well, putting up 128 rushing yards on 39 attempts with three touchdowns.
Redshirt Senior running back Marquell Cartwright led the way in the backfield for the Aggies in 2018. With 928 yards on 164 carries, the senior has given A&T a stable rushing attack to help win games this season. Though he only rushed for five touchdowns, Cartwright was able to provide a balanced attack from the backfield.
Defensively for A&T, they are only giving up 14.8 points per game and averaging 32 points off turnovers for the season. The stifling defense is only allowing 275 yards per game, which could go a long way in Saturday’s match-up.
How A&T Can Win
For this matchup to go in the Aggies’ favor, they have to contain Alcorn State redshirt junior quarterback Noah Johnson and his dual-threat ability. Although it may be true that Johnson’s only real offer was Alcorn State, he has lived up to expectations in his time with the Braves. This game has a lot of implications for both teams, as these two schools are seeking a 10-win season.
Alcorn State Offensive Attack
In the backfield for Alcorn State, De’Shawn Waller rushed for 1,067 yards with 12 touchdowns on the season. Waller is a talented back that has led the Braves to become a quality rushing team in the SWAC Conference. He led the way this season and hopes to add more statistics to his successful season on Saturday against the Aggies.
Celebration Bowl History and Importance
This is just the fourth annual Celebration Bowl. The game originated in 2015. It is the national championship of sorts for the HBCU. The North Carolina A&T Aggies won the 2017 Celebration Bowl over Grambling State. In December 2015, the Aggies and Braves faced off in the inaugural Celebration Bowl, with A&T defeating Alcorn State 41-34. The Celebration Bowl plays a historical and important part in HBCU football. This is the only bowl game to feature two FCS teams.
The HBCU’s needed a game to incorporate into their history, and what better way to instill it than playing for a National Championship? This gives teams a chance to play for history. It also gives the players a chance to prove their worth and show their skills that bigger schools may have missed on. Having a National Championship as an HBCU school was non-existent until 2015, but this extra game gives the teams, players, and communities something to cheer for in mid-December every year.