2018 Football

Alcorn State will look to pound A&T defense in Celebration Bowl

Alcorn State’s running game and QB Noah Johnson will be vital to its hopes for winning the Celebration Bowl on Saturday.

By B.J. Jones

It’s time for the season finale in Atlanta between the top teams from the MEAC and SWAC in the fourth annual Celebration Bowl. Since the bowl was created we have been blessed to witness some amazing games which all have been decided by seven points or less. This year looks to be no different as the North Carolina A&T Aggies take on the Alcorn State Braves.

The Aggies are making their third trip to Atlanta and are a 2-0 in the bowl game including a 41-34 win over Alcorn State in the inaugural Celebration Bowl in 2015. The Braves are back after a two year hiatus, and they’re looking to make a statement not only about football in the SWAC but also a statement to the world about Alcorn State football.

If you like defense, this is the game for you! The Aggies and Braves are both ranked in the top five nationally in total defense so points could be hard to come by. The Aggies are led by MEAC Defensive Player of The Year Darryl Johnson Jr who racked up 10.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss this season. The Braves bring a front seven that might be the best in FCS Football. The Braves led the SWAC in sacks and tackles for loss and had three members of that front seven ranked in the top 10 of the conference in sacks.

Both teams are very talented. The Aggies are led by senior quarterback Lamar Raynard who was the offensive player of the year in 2017 and running back Marquell Cartwright who led the MEAC with over 1,000 yards rushing for a second consecutive season.  The Braves are led by SWAC Offensive Player of The Year Noah Johnson and running backs De’Shawn Waller who was the conference’s Newcomer of the year, and PJ Simmons. While both defenses are highly touted these offenses can be just as lethal.

The A&T offense is ranked third in the MEAC in total offense and second in scoring offense while ASU ranked first in the SWAC total offense and scoring offense. Let’s take a look at what makes these offenses so special. First, let’s take look at Noah Johnson and this explosive Alcorn State offense.

One of the things that makes Alcorn’s offense so dangerous is the read option and Noah Johnson’s ability to run the option so efficiently. You’ll see here Johnson reads the defensive end, who crashes down on the running back, keeps the ball and runs for a big gain

The vision and balance of Waller is also an added luxury for  Johnson and this offense. As you see on this play Alcorn runs the read option and Johnson makes the mistake of handing off to Waller instead of keeping it but Waller’s balance and athletic ability allows him to spin off of two defenders and bounce the run outside for a touchdown’.

Outside of the read option the bubble screens are a staple of the Braves offense. These bubble screens help get Johnson in rhythm and have been very effective. Here you’ll see Johnson make an easy completion for a gain of 7 on the bubble screen. 

 Johnson’s escape ability and his ability to keep his downfield is another thing that makes this offense dangerous. Here defenders almost have Johnson sacked but he escapes and throws to receiver Dayall Harris for a big gain.

Johnson scrambling

If you’re an Aggie defender you must tackle well when the Alcorn State ball carriers have the football, the defensive backs must be aggressive getting off of blocks to limit the bubble screen attack, and you must get to Noah Johnson when you have an opportunity to sack him because if you don’t he has the ability to throw or run for a big gain.  

Alcorn State will look to pound A&T defense in Celebration Bowl


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