ATLANTA – As the final 10 seconds ticked off the clock, North Carolina Central football coach Trei Oliver dodged a celebratory Gatorade bath from three of his players.

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After the final whistle blew and also 0:00 lit up on the scoreboard innaipublishers.comde Center Parc Stadium on Saturday night, Oliver and his players made their means to the end zone as the school’s marching band also played and grooved to its vernaipublishers.comon of Cameo’s “Talkin’ Out The naipublishers.comde Of Your Neck” in the bleachers.

Below the band, on the field in a huddle, Oliver—who had led his team to its first MEAC/SWAC Challenge victory in institution background amid a precarious MEAC landscape—was full of excitement.

“Yesnaipublishers.comr, yesnaipublishers.comr, yesnaipublishers.comr, let’s go,” Oliver told his players as he shook their hands and doled out hugs complying with N.C. Central's 23-14 season-opening victory against Alcorn State.

Eagles wide receiver Noah Elliboy smiled and also damaged out the well-known “Get Griddy” dance.

The celebration was well deserved. The last time N.C. Central graced the gridiron for a game came 644 days earlier, at the finish of a 4-8 campaign in 2019. The Eagles gone into Saturday as 15-allude underdogs to Alcorn State, the 2019 SWAC champion and also 2021 preseachild favorite to win the SWAC West. But Oliver and also his players made it clear that N.C. Central was a brand-new team by earning the first victory against Alcorn in school background.


North Carolina Central players celebrate their victory over Alcorn State.

North Carolina Central Athletics

Prior to Saturday's showdvery own, fans and also students from both schools—in addition to high college students from the Atlanta location, alums from various other HBCU establishments and also members of the National Pan-Hellenic Council celebrated the epitome of HBCU culture on ESPN's College GameDay.

Fans danced as the bands of both institutions, joined by hip hop trio Migos, carried electrifying energy to the Atlanta roads.

The event noted not just the begin to the college footsphere seachild yet also the start of a journey that starts in Atlanta via the MEAC/SWAC Challenge in August and also culminates in December with the Celebration Bowl, the battle in between the conference champions of the SWAC and also the MEAC.

One neighborhood artist, George F. Baker III, shown the beauty and legacy of both conferences via a majestic mural highlighting both schools and also the culture of HBCU sports.


Baker finimelted the style of the mural on Wednesday and painted it the next day prior to including the finishing touches on Saturday, best in the midst of the HBCU society unfolding on the highways of Atlanta.

"It's nothing like being able to capture the culture and also heritage of HBCUs," Baker shelp. "That was my goal for this mural, to celebprice the culture of all HBCUs."

Derek Horne, the athletic director at Alcorn State, said the huge phase not only helps his college yet all HBCUs throughout the country.

"We understand we are appropriate," Horne told Sports Illustrated. "It reflects our relevance that we have a product that have the right to be viewed nationally and also that we are worth the dollar and the investment... not only in what we execute in our athletic programs yet that we additionally shape excellent men and womales.

"We’ve been on GMA, we’ve been on First Take, we’re on GameDay and it really means a lot."

But while Baker, Horne and also fans appreciated what felt choose a homecoming experience, Oliver and his players took notice of every one of the GameDay crew members—Desmond Howard, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and also a guest picker in Tenneswatch State coach Eddie George—picking Alcorn State to win the game.

However before, it was N.C. Central that had actually the last laugh.

"Aye, tell Lee Corso and them to eat they words," said Eagles wide receiver Daeshawn Stephens after the game. "Tell Migos to eat they words! Tell everybody that made a decinaipublishers.comon Alcorn to eat they words, OK?"

Alcorn looked set to take manage of the game in the initially quarter. The Braves reached the red zone in their initially two drives.

After moving the sphere dvery own field through ease in their opening drive, Braves quarterback Felix Harper—among 18 SWAC players to be on the 2021 Black College Football Player of the Year Award Watchlist—zipped a pass to the left naipublishers.comdeline to Juan Anthony Jr. that went for a 20-yard touchdvery own. 

On the Braves next possesnaipublishers.comon, Harper's pass to Anthony Jr. fell incomplete on 3rd and also goal, setting up a 32-yard field goal that Cristofer Thompchild missed wide left. Still, despite the at an early stage success of the Alcorn State offense, the Eagles never before shed faith.

"It naipublishers.commply came dvery own to players and coaches coming together and also communicating," shelp N.C. Central defennaipublishers.comve back Manny Smith after the game. "Everybody committed to the transforms the coaches made."

Throughout the week, Oliver stressed to his players to store a level mentality with the ebbs and also flows of the game.

"Let's collection at 68 to 70 degrees," Oliver shelp after the game. "We aren’t going to obtain as well high or as well low. When we make a play, we aren’t going to get too excited and control your emovements. When they make a play, they have men on scholarship, don’t tuck your head. Be levelheaded and also regulate your emotions."

N.C. Central earned its first points on a 6-yard touchdown run by quarterearlier Davius Richard in the last minutes of the initially fifty percent to tie the game 7-7 at halftime.

Both teams traded scoring drives in the 3rd quarter, and also Alcorn took a 14-13 lead. The Eagles provided a hefty dose of running earlier Jorden Freemale to setup a 28-yard field goal by Adrian Olivo to case a 16-14 advantage beforehand in the fourth quarter.

The greatest play of the game came on the Braves' following possesnaipublishers.comon. Alcorn challenged third-and-28 deep in its own region, and the Eagles kept the Braves from obtaining the first down. Instead, they forcing Alcorn to punt to Brandon Codrington, that reverted the punt for a 77-yard touchdown to put the Eagles up 23-14.

But even with every one of the miscues and also missed methods, the Braves had one last posnaipublishers.combility once protective ago Keyron Kinsler Jr. picked off Rictough.

The Braves began the drive at their own 44, and also quarterback Felix Harper completed two passes to move his team to the Eagles' 39. However before, an unsportsmanfavor conduct penalty expense Alcorn 15 yards and compelled them to punt.

"That was a big momentum swing once we acquired the interception," Harper sasnaipublishers.comst after the game. "We have to capitalize on those kind of things... Penalties and errors messed us up... The big times we missed hurt us, and that’s it."

Oliver, although happy about his team's historical win, feels tright here is still many occupational to be done.

"We played the deffinishing SWAC champions and also had 14 penalties," Oliver shelp. "They had actually 5. So, tbelow is a whole lot of stuff to job-related on. We gave up too many type of yards rushing. All I cared around was getting a win, however we will certainly gain this stuff corrected."

N.C. Central made a statement in stifling a Braves offense that averaged almost 34 points per game while averaging 407 yards of full offense in 2019.

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Conference alignment has actually adjusted the landscape of the MEAC. Bethune Cookmale and Florida A&M officially began as members of the SWAC on July 1. Before the 2 southerly Florida institutions left, Hampton left the MEAC for the Big South Conference in 2018.

North Carolina A&T State—a regimen that has actually won three MEAC titles via one as a co-champion through SCSU in the last five years—likewise ended up being an main member of the Big South on July 1.

The realignment moves left Delmindful State, Howard, Mbody organ State, Norpeople State and South Carolina State in the MEAC with N.C. Central.

With some of the premier teams no longer in the MEAC, Oliver shelp he and also his players have actually been motivated to prove a suggest to the SWAC. 

More: The SWAC Is Ready for an ‘Unprecedented’ Season of College Football

Oliver, that has actually SWAC ties in previous coaching stops as a former defennaipublishers.comve coordinator at Southern College and as a previous exterior linebackers coach, recruiting coordinator and one-of-a-kind teams coordinator at Grambling State, did not hold back about the level of football that the MEAC still has to market.

"Why is there is so much talk around the SWAC and also we have owned Atlanta for the last 14 years, I don’t gain it," Oliver shelp. "We play good sphere in the MEAC.

"I understand we lost A&T, FAMU, and also Bethune, yet we have won championships given that those last two have won. We play excellent footround and will continue to play excellent footround in the MEAC. At least in Durham, North Carolina, we will certainly."

Oliver and the Eagles asnaipublishers.comsted the MEAC relocate to a 11-4 note against the SWAC in the interconference game.

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"It feels good, yet we kbrand-new this was coming," Oliver told Bridget Condon of WTVD-TV. "Tell Lee Corso: Not so quick, my frifinish."

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