N.C. A&T bows to UR in NCAA football playoff

12/2/2016, 6:04 p.m.
North Carolina A&T State University’s 2015 football season ended with a party as victors of the inaugural Celebration Bowl. This ...
University of Richmond running back Deontez Thompson is swamped by the North Carolina A&T State University defense last Saturday before being taken down by Aggies defensive back Zerius Lockhart, No. 9 jersey, in the NCAA playoff matchup at Robins Stadium. Courtesy of University of Richmond Athletics

North Carolina A&T State University’s 2015 football season ended with a party as victors of the inaugural Celebration Bowl.

This football season’s conclusion was more like a dreaded visit to the dentist.

Finishing 9-3, the Aggies lost 39-10 to the University of Richmond last Saturday in the opening round of the NCAA-FCS playoffs at Robins Stadium.

Coach Broadway

Coach Broadway

UR dominated with 491 yards total offense compared to the Aggies’ 226 yards. The Spiders advance to play the University of North Dakota on Saturday, Dec. 3, in Grand Forks, N.D.

“It’s sad it ended like this because we had high expectations,” A&T Coach Rod Broadway said at postgame news conference.

“Nine wins is outstanding by anyone’s standard, but this is not what we wanted. We wanted better.”

A&T whiffed on its chance to return to the Celebration Bowl with a regular season ending loss to North Carolina Central University. The Celebration Bowl matches MEAC and SWAC champs in a nationally televised bowl game at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. A&T won last year over Alcorn State University.

On the other hand, MEAC teams now have lost 19 straight games in NCAA-FCS playoffs. Two years ago, the University of Richmond drubbed Morgan State University in a similar setting.

“We expected to win our conference and go back to the Celebration Bowl,” said junior offensive tackle Marquis Ragland. “This is heartbreaking.”

A&T fans had little to cheer about when the game against UR took place two days after Thanksgiving before a crowd of 3,281 on the UR campus and an internet TV hookup on ESPN3.

By contrast, last year’s Celebration Bowl drew 35,528 fans, plus an ABC-TV audience, and included a battle of the bands and two days of festivities leading up to the game. Unofficially, it is considered the HBCU National Championship Game. Conferences are awarded $1 million each.

This year’s Celebration Bowl is Saturday, Dec. 17, with North Carolina Central facing either Grambling State or Alcorn State universities.

An Aggies bright spot on a dreary day was senior scatback Tarik Cohen, who rushed for 70 yards, breaking his own single-season rushing record of 1,588 yards. The 5-foot-6 Cohen, who was MVP of last year’s Celebration Bowl, finishes with MEAC career records of 5,619 yards rushing and 59 touchdowns.