The time is near and the game has been set. The Air Force Reserves Celebration Bowl will take place at the Georgia Dome, December 17th at Noon. Grambling State punched their ticket to the game by defeating Alcorn State 27-20 in the SWAC Championship and will now face North Carolina Central of the MEAC.
Last years’ game was entertaining with North Carolina A&T coming out victorious however this year should be equally as entertaining or better. North Carolina Central, led by Head Coach Jerry Mack, started 0-2 with losses to Duke and Western Michigan but won 9 straight to capture the MEAC Crown, including a second straight victory over the Aggies to clinch their trip to Atlanta.
The Eagles have outscored opponents 338 to 265, averaging almost 31 points a game. The Eagles rush for slightly under 100 yards a game at 93 and passed for 92 yards a game. Quarterback Malcolm Bell has led the offense with 2191 yards passing with 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His favorite target is Lavontis Smith with 40 grabs for 646 yards. Bell also has another 544 yards rushing from the QB position and is unafraid to scramble. Ramone Simpson leads the ground attack with 630 yards on 124 attempts with five touchdowns. Defensively, the Eagles are led by Linebacker Reggie Hunter with 73 tackles including 38 solo and Defensive End Frederick Henry-Ajudua leads the team in sacks with 7.5 in just 9 games played.
Grambling State finished the season 10-1 and would have been 11-0 if not for a furious comeback by Pac-12 team Arizona where the Tigers were up late into the contest. Under the leadership of Head Coach Broderick Fobbs, the Tigers did right the ship and have not lost a game since, winning 10 straight. Grambling has outscored their opponents 467 to 184 averaging an eye-popping 42.7 points a game.
The passing attack led by Quarterback Devonte Kincade, averaging 131 yards passing per game. His totals include 2807 yards, 30 touchdowns, with just three interceptions. Kincade is very efficient as a passer, completing 65 percent of his passes. His favorite target is Wide Receiver Chad Williams, who has nearly 1300 yards on 86 catches. Kincade also spreads the ball around, having two other receivers with over 500 yards in Verlan Hunter and Dominique Leake. The rushing attack is led by Jestin Kelly with 808 yards on 140 attempts and eight touchdowns.
Defensively, this unit has held opponents to 16.7 points a game. They are led by Linebacker Arkez Cooper who has had a monster season with 68 tackles, 43 solo along with 16 tackles for loss, and six sacks. Defensive End Samuel Reese is the teams’ leading sacker with 9. Their sack distribution has been great, having several players with 4 or more for the season.
As the bowl season is starting to unfold, “The Celebration Bowl” is a great recognition of the top teams in Historically Black College and University football but judging from strictly an analytical standpoint this matchup is very intriguing. North Carolina Central is a very balanced attack both offensively and defensively. They have a very capable signal caller that gets the offense where it needs to be. Statistically, they will not “wow” you but with what they do, they do it well. In contrast, Grambling’s offense is dynamic. They can both throw it and run it and it is a reminder of the Doug Williams coaching days at the school. This should be a great game.
Jamie Walker is a Producer and Analyst for Sports Radio 92.9 The Game Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter @coachjdub21 or by email at Jamie.Walker@cbsradio.com.