ATLANTA (December 16, 2017) – In Major League Baseball, the unbreakable record appears to be Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. In the NBA, it is perhaps Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 points.
On Saturday, America may have witnessed another unbreakable record happen in sports, live on ABC. In the world of black college football, where teams must play Division I-FBS programs (who are sometimes named Florida State, Clemson and Arkansas) for revenue, the seventh-ranked North Carolina A&T Aggies football team went an undefeated 12-0, won the Black College Football National Championship and improved to 2-0 in the third edition of the Celebration Bowl with a 21-14 win over No. 12 Grambling State (11-2) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
It may be a while before an unbeaten team emerges from black college football.
“I'm just extremely proud of our players and the job our coaching staff has done,” said N.C. A&T coach Rod Broadway. “It's an awesome feeling right now to be 12-0 and to win our second national championship in three years at A&T. I'm happy for our school. We've come a long way.”
Yes Lawd. N.C. A&T is the first-ever Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference school to finish the entire season undefeated. They are the first Division I-AA black college football team to finish a season unbeaten and untied and they broke the school and conference record for wins with 12.
Four-year seniors Brandon Parker (6-foot-7, 309, left tackle, Kannapolis, NC), Marcus Albert (5-10, 205, LB, College Park, Ga.), Caleb Gabriel (5-9, 165, wide receiver, Raleigh, NC), Khris Gardin (5-7, 185, return specialist/WR, Morganton, NC), Darriel Mack (6-2, 300, center, Clio, SC), Joshua Mattocks (6-3, 331, left guard, Swansboro, NC), Tard McCoy (5-9, 191, defensive back, Delray Beach, Fla.), Kenneth Melton (6-2, 235, defensive end, Elizabeth City), Joshua Patrick (5-11, 223, linebacker, Dekalb, Ga.) and Jeremy Taylor (5-11, 190, linebacker, Kinston, NC) are the winningest class in school history with an outstanding 40 wins against only eight losses.
What makes Saturday’s outcome even more special, fun and humbling is the fact that 10 years ago today, the Aggies were coming off their second straight 0-11 season. Today, they are the kings of black college football, they’re a top-10 team in the Football Championship Subdivision and they went from winless to unbeaten. Aggie Pride!
“Twelve and oh doesn’t come easy,” said Taylor, the Aggies two-time first-team All-MEAC linebacker. “It was a grind. But to do it with your brothers and the people you love, makes it worth it. I graduated last week, so now I have a degree and these championships to take with me from A&T.”
N.C. A&T won in true championship folklore. With the game tied at 14, the Aggies took over the ball at their own 44-yard line with 1:42 remaining in the game. On 2nd-and-10, one of the many crucial moments of the game occurred. N.C. A&T quarterback and MEAC Offensive Player of the Year Lamar Raynard (6-4, 200, High Point, NC) dumped a short pass over the middle to All-MEAC first-team running back Marquell Cartwright (5-8, 201, High Point, NC).
As Cartwright made his initial move up the field he started to bobble the ball and it eventually hit the Mercedes-Benz turf. A GSU defender picked the ball up as if it were a fumble and returned the other way. Before he got too far, the officials ruled the play an incomplete pass. GSU coach Broderick Fobbs wasn’t so sure, so he challenged the play. The call of incomplete pass was upheld, costing the Tigers their final timeout.
Raynard then proceeded to lead his team to another championship. He completed a 19-yard pass to Gardin. Raynard then tried to complete another pass to his high school teammate, Cartwright, and this time it was successful. Cartwright took the catch and run play to the GSU 18 before junior Elijah Bell (6-1, 221, WR, Wheeling, WVa.) made an amazing catch for a 15-yard gain to the GSU 3. He was the final catch of his 10-reception, 95-yard day.
The Aggies, who were victims of a goal line stand earlier in the game, would not be denied with the game on the line. After a 2-yard Cartwright run, the Aggies hurried to the line and snuck Raynard through for a 1-yard touchdown with 38 seconds remaining.
“That's how championships are won, when you’re able to get the winning score late by putting the ball in the end zone and end the season 12-0 which is an unbelievable feeling.”
Cartwright was named the game’s offensive MVP after finishing with 110 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. His three receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown gave him 164 all-purpose yards against the Tigers. Another Aggies running back, current Chicago Bear Tarik Cohen, was the game’s offensive MVP two years ago when the Aggies won the Celebration Bowl.
Cartwright says he talks to Cohen often and he said both men wanted something to be known. “We’re a running back school. We just wanted that to be known,” said Cartwright. “We just let everybody know that even though Tarik is gone, we can still be a dominant team.”
Two dominant programs gave everyone their money’s worth. The Aggies got on the board first as Cartwright caught an 11-yard pass from Raynard. GSU quarterback Devante Kincade was a problem for the Aggies all afternoon. He had 225 yards passing and two touchdowns and another 93 yards rushing on 16 carries. He led the Tigers on an 8-play, 70-yard drive to the game at 7 in the second quarter.
“That young man showed out. He's a special talent,” said Broadway. “One of the things we wanted to do in the game is not let him beat us with his feet. He kept a lot of drives alive with his feet. We had some chances to hit him, and we just missed him. He's slippery. He did an outstanding job of keeping drives alive and helping them get in the end zone a couple of times.”
GSU and Kincade tried to take its first lead of the game in the third quarter. On 2nd-and-goal from the 7, All-America cornerback Mac MCcain (5-11, 174, FR, Greensboro, NC) came up with his sixth interception of the season to halt the Tigers drive.
“I watch film a lot. I try to know a lot of things before they happen,” said McCain, the game’s defensive MVP. “He lined up with a tight split, so I pretty much knew he was going to run an out route. I ran the out for him and made the catch. “
N.C. A&T used the big play to drive 80 yards to take the lead on a Cartwright 29-yard TD run. GSU tied the game at 14 on a 29-yard TD pass from Kincade to Martez Carter to open the fourth quarter.
“Twelve and oh is something most teams don’t do,” said Taylor. “It’s something most teams don't come close to doing. That’s the memory you take with you. We did something most people don’t do.”
Or may never do again.