Saturday, December 17, 2016
Excessive celebration penalty leads to Grambling winning Celebration Bowl and 15th HBCU national title
ATLANTA, Georgia -- It seems mildly appropriate that the Celebration Bowl may have been decided in part by an excessive celebration penalty. North Carolina Central wide receiver Quentin Atkinson caught a 39-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone late in the second half to bring the MEAC champion Eagles within one point of SWAC champion Grambling, but Atkinson removed his helmet while celebrating the potentially-game-tying touchdown, which pushed the extra point attempt back 15 yards. Grambling blocked the extra point attempt and then proceeded to recover an onside kick attempt to essentially wrap up a Celebration Bowl victory to lay claim to an HBCU national championship.
Grambling trailed NC Central 3-0 at halftime but came back strong in the second half. A 32-yard touchdown run by game MVP Martez Carter in the third quarter gave the Tigers a 7-3 lead, and a 26-yard field goal by Jonathan Wallace later in the quarter extended the lead to 10-3. With Grambling’s defense clamping down on the Eagles in the second half (four three-and-outs, turnover on downs, fumble recovery, interception), Grambling looked poised to secure the win. But the Eagles had one last series in them, resulting in the Atkinson touchdown catch from Malcolm Bell.
The play of the game was actually called back by a holding penalty. Grambling wide receiver Verlan Hunter climbed the ladder to come down with a fantastic one-handed catch, but the effort was negated by a penalty. Regardless, Hunter showed he has some elevation to his game.