Defending MEAC champion North Carolina Central’s 18-game conference winning streak and run of 11 consecutive home victories came to a screeching halt Saturday as Norfolk State held on for a 28-21 road win.
The loss was the first for the Eagles (5-2, 2-1 MEAC), No. 3 in Black College polls and No. 25 in the FCS rankings, in the conference since 2015; their winning streak was the second longest in MEAC, trailing only South Carolina State’s 21 straight wins from 2008-2010. North Carolina Central last previous conference loss a 28-26 defeat against Bethune-Cookman on Oct. 3, 2015. The Eagles went on to share the conference championship with North Carolina A&T and Bethune-Cookman that season.
In addition to ending North Carolina Central’s winning streak, Norfolk State’s victory throws the MEAC championship into a mad scramble with Norfolk State in the mix. North Carolina A&T and Hampton are unbeaten in conference play while Norfolk State, North Carolina Central and Howard each has one conference loss.
Norfolk State (2-4, 3-1) led 21-0 in the first quarter, thanks in part to a helping hand from the Eagles who had two turnovers and were flagged 12 times for 111 yards in the first half. Spartans freshman quarterback Juwan Carter threw three of his four touchdown passes for the day in the first half. Carter connected with C. J. Jones for a three-yard score in the first quarter, and he had scoring passes of 11 and 42 yards to Isaiah Winstead and 42 to Marcus Taylor, respectively. Carter’s fourth touchdown pass was a 58-yard strike to Taylor in the fourth quarter that extended Norfolk State’s lead to 28-14.
Naiil Ramadan replaced Chauncey Caldwell at quarterback for North Carolina Central in the second half and rallied the Eagles to three scores. Ramadan threw a pair of touchdown passes to Josh McCoy. The Eagles’ comeback fell short when Norfolk State came up with a pair of late interception. Linebacker Keith Archie deflected a screen pass intended for Ramone Simpson and took the ball from him with 1:48 left in the game. Anthony Smith killed the Eagles’ last chance keep their winning streak alive when he made his second interception of the game with 42 seconds left.
The win was Norfolk State’s first against North Carolina Central since 1995.
North Carolina A&T 24, Bethune-Cookman 20 – The Aggies continued their quest for an unbeaten season with a come-from-behind MEAC home victory. Bethune-Cookman (3-4, 2-2 MEAC) led 20-14 going into the fourth quarter before North Carolina A&T (8-0, 4-0 MEAC) rallied. The Aggies are the only unbeaten FCS team in the nation. No MEAC team has ever had an unbeaten season. The Aggies are trying to become the first HBCU to go undefeated since Tuskegee was 12-0 in 2007.
A wacky defensive play late in the third quarter helped keep the Aggies record unblemished. Wildcats quarterback Akevious Williams’ pass bounced off Aggies freshman cornerback Mac McClain when McCain went for the interception. Jeremy Taylor also had a shot at an interception on the play, but Bethune-Cookman’s Anthony Cruz snatched the ball away from Taylor. However, Deion Jones swiped the ball from Cruz for an Aggies interception.
Freshman kicker Noel Ruiz converted the turnover into a 30-yard field goal with 13:05 left in the game that cut Bethune-Cookman’s lead to 20-17. The Aggies set up their winning touchdown with a trick play. Running back Marqell Cartwright took a pitchout from quarterback Lamar Raynard; Cartwright then handed the ball off to wide receiver Jaquil Capel, who threw it back to Raynard for a 25-yard gain. Raynard’s four-yard touchdown pass to Trey Scott with 8:26 left in the game gave the Aggies the win.
Grambling State 41, Alcorn State 14 – The G-Men staked their claim to being the best team in the SWAC with a home victory in this 2016 conference championship game rematch, which was also a likely preview of this year’s title game. Grambling (6-1, 3-0), first in the SWAC West, converted the mistakes by the Braves (5-3, 3-1 SWAC), the East Division leaders, into 21 points while topping the 40-point mark for the first time this season.
The G-Men led 7-0 less than a minute into the game after scoring on their second play from scrimmage. Quarterback Devante Kincade connected with Martez Carter on a 57-yard pass play on the opening play of the game before scoring on a 17-yard keeper on the next play. Kincade threw for 211 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.
He finished the contest with 268 yards through the air. Carter ran for 115 yards on 25 carries, and he added 67 yards on pass receptions. The G-Mean won despite committing 13 penalties that cost them 105 yards. The victory was the 21st in row in conference play for Grambling, which hasn’t lost a conference game since bowing to Southern 52-45 in the 2014 Bayou Classic.
Clark Atlanta 44, Albany State 36– The Panthers knocked the Golden Rams off their perch atop the SIAC East Division standing with a stunning home victory while handing them their first conference loss. The loss leaves Albany State (5-3, 3-1 SIAC) third in the SIAC behind Benedict and Fort Valley State, who both have 4-1 conference record.
Quarterback Johnathan McCrary threw for 357 yards and five touchdowns for the Panthers (4-4, 3-3 SIAC), who trailed 29-27 entering the fourth quarter. The Panthers scored 17 unanswered points in the final stanza and grabbed a 44-29 lead. Albany State got within haling distance of lead when Chancellor Johnson scored on a one-yard run with 2:29 left in the game.
Albany State drove to the Panthers’ six yard line on its final possession, but Johnson had a pass intercepted on a fourth-and-goal play with 11 seconds left in the game. The win was the first for Clark against Albany State since 2001.
Charleston Southern 52, Savannah State 27
Delaware State 17, South Carolina State 14
Hampton 31, Florida A&M 27
Howard 39, Morgan State 14
Mississippi Valley State 53, Virginia-Lynchburg 5
Southern 3, Jackson State 17
Bowie State 40, Virginia Union 22
Chowan 28, Elizabeth City State 18
Fayetteville State 34, Saint Augustine’s 31
Johnson C. Smith 13, Shaw 10
Virginia State 73, Lincoln (Pa.) 21
Winston-Salem State 42, Livingstone 14
Fort Valley State 24, Central State 19
Miles 35, Lane 0
Morehouse 29, Benedict 26, 2OT
Tuskegee 26, Kentucky State 21
Indianapolis 45, Lincoln (Mo.) 0
Langston 21, Arizona Christian 14
Warner 38, Edward Waters 10
West Chester 55, Cheyney 6
West Virginia State 39, West Liberty 33
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