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WATCH: North Carolina Central upsets Alcorn State in MEAC/SWAC Challenge

WATCH: North Carolina Central upsets Alcorn State in MEAC/SWAC Challenge
Dec 21, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alcorn State Braves quarterback Felix Harper (2) scrambles against the North Carolina A&T Aggies in the first half of the Celebration Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in over 600 days, both the North Carolina Central Eagles and the Alcorn State Braves returned to the football field in the annual MEAC/SWAC Challenge. It was North Carolina Central that came away with the 40-24 over Alcorn State.

The MEAC/SWAC Challenge is a game played between a selected team from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and the Southwestern Athletic Conference both of which are comprised of historically black college teams to begin the college football season.

Coming in to tonight’s game the MEAC held a 10-4 all-time record in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge with the last game seeing Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (then representing the MEAC) winning 36-15 over the SWAC’s Jackson State.

This was North Carolina Central’s first MEAC/SWAC Challenge since losing 40-24 against the Prairie View A&M Panthers while Alcorn State’s lone appearance came in 2016 but was not finished due to weather.

Alcorn State came into this game off a 2019 season that saw them finish 9-3 overall (7-1 in conference) going on to win their second straight SWAC championship and clinching a berth in their second straight Celebration Bowl. There, the Braves fell short losing 64-44 to the North Carolina A&T State Aggies.

Meanwhile, the North Carolina Central Eagles struggled in the 2019 season finishing 4-8 overall and 3-5 in conference. This was their second straight losing season and the first time they recorded a losing record in back-to-back seasons since joining the MEAC in 2011.

It was the running game for both teams taking center stage as both teams combined for 378 rushing yards on 75 attempts.

North Carolina Central quarterback Davius Richard came up huge on the ground for the Eagles, finishing with 64 rushing yards on nine attempts scoring two touchdowns. Meanwhile, he had a solid game through the air, completing 16-of-26 passes for 184 more yards — connecting on clutch passes to help move his team down field consistently.

Alcorn State quarterback and 2019 SWAC Offensive Player of the Year Felix Harper finished the game recording 154 passing yards on 17-of-27 passing and two scores. However, he had a rough day overall, filled with numerous mental mistakes as he overthrew receivers often and struggled to hold on to the football.

The Braves were awful on third down, failing to convert on nine of 10 attempts, compared to the Eagles’ much more efficient 7-for-14 clip.

After Alcorn State took a 14-13 lead with 2:19 remaining in the third quarter, North Carolina Central’s special teams helped push the team to victory with a field goal and a 77-yard kick return touchdown by All-MEAC return specialist Brandon Codrington.

Both teams will be idle next Saturday returning to the football field in two weeks with Alcorn State facing the Northwestern State Demons and North Carolina Central playing the Marshall Thundering Herd.