EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Nov. 25, 2019) – North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University is returning to the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl for a third straight year after thrashing archrival North Carolina Central 54-0 during Senior Day on Saturday at BB&T Stadium and claiming a share of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) regular season championship.

The Aggies will head into the Celebration Bowl at noon Dec. 21 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta as the defending two-time HBCU national champions.

As the most lopsided win in the 91-game series history, Saturday’s matchup marked the most points the Aggies have ever scored against the Eagles and was the first time either team reached or exceeded 50 points in the series.

The victory puts the Aggies (8-3, 6-2 MEAC) in the Celebration Bowl for the third straight season and the fourth time in the bowl game’s five-year history.

“I know very (few) champions that three-peat, and I’ve been in this business for a very long time,” head coach Sam Washington said. “It’s just something that just doesn’t happen, so it’s special. We look forward to the opportunity of defending our title.”

The Aggies claimed their 11th overall MEAC championship – their fifth conference title in six years and third straight overall – splitting it with South Carolina State (8-3, 6-2) who defeated Norfolk State in overtime Saturday.

Before Saturday’s game, the Aggies honored 18 seniors including wide receiver Elijah Bell, who went on to finish with three receptions for 109 yards and two touchdowns. In the four games he played against N.C. Central, Bell caught a combined 20 passes for 417 yards and six touchdowns.

“Central always brings out the best in me,” said Bell, who caught his 200th career pass Saturday, becoming the sixth player in MEAC history to accomplish the feat. “Coming in, that’s all I heard about was Central and the rivalry, so I always took it personally.

“I really think it’s from the senior speeches when I was a freshman. When they talked about how much they wanted that game, it hit me just how big this game is. It doesn’t matter if it is rain or snow, Central is always going to get my best.”

Senior defensive end Tre Smalls’ final game at BB&T Stadium included nine tackles, six tackles for loss and two sacks. Washington said he told Smalls he was going to have a breakout game on the way to the stadium.

“We always preach start fast, finish strong,” said Smalls. “It is like times two when it’s against those guys from Durham.”

Over the past two seasons, the Eagles have only been able to compile 50 yards against the Aggies. In fact, the Eagles have not scored against Aggies since the third quarter of the 2017 game between the two teams and have been outscored 99-0 over the past two seasons.

 “Defensively, it was probably one of the best outcomes in my history,” Washington said. “They finished with nine yards in total offense. We were able to produce 520 yards offensively. That’s amazing.”

Junior running back Jah-Maine Martin finished with 122 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. It was his sixth 100-yard rushing game of the season. Last week, he broke Tarik Cohen’s single-season record for rushing touchdowns.

After Bell scored on a 68-yard touchdown reception to open the scoring in the game, Martin followed with a 20-yard TD run that broke Cohen’s single-season school record for total touchdowns.

Martin opened the fourth quarter with his 21st touchdown of the season as he raced 55 yards to the end zone for his ninth TD run of 50 or more yards this season.

“I thought they prepared well this week and I think that’s where it all started, in the preparation,” said Washington. “Last week’s practices were highly intense. There was a lot of good energy and a lot of good effort. I think it carried over into the ballgame.”

N.C. A&T is on the best run of any MEAC school since S.C. State won six of seven MEAC titles 1977-83.

The Aggies will not know their Celebration Bowl opponent until Dec. 7 after the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) championship game is played.

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