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NC Central downs Jackson State in 41-34 overtime thriller at Celebration Bowl

NC Central sends Deion Sanders off to Colorado with a loss.

Cricket Celebration Bowl - Jackson State v NC Central Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The “Coach Prime” era at Jackson State ended in heartbreak at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday.

NC Central took down Jackson State in a 41-34 overtime thriller at the Celebration Bowl, marking the second year in a row the heavily favored Tigers were defeated in the HBCU national championship. This was the final game for head coach Deion Sanders at JSU, who has already set up shop in Boulder, CO, and Colorado’s new head coach. This is the fifth consecutive time the MEAC Champion has upended the SWAC Champion in the annual showdown between the two HBCU leagues.

NC Central (10-2) came out swinging to start the contest as MEAC Offensive Player of the year Davius Richard ran in a four-yard touchdown to put the Eagles up 10-0. Jackson State (12-1) would wake up and answer as SWAC Offensive Player of the Year Shedeur Sanders would fire off two touchdown passes to put the Tigers on top early in the second quarter.

From there, the two squads continued to trade haymakers throughout the rest of the contest as the lead changed hands several times with both squads jacking momentum from the other. Trailing by one in the fourth, NC Central capped a seven-minute drive with a Latrell Collins touchdown run to put them back in front. They would add a little pizazz by breaking out the Philly Special on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt to put them up 34-27.

With the game on the line, Sanders and company would make clutch play after clutch play to keep themselves alive. Facing 4th and 7 with just over a minute left, the star QB would hit JD Martin on a 10-yard pass to move the chains. And then facing 4th and 10 in the closing seconds of regulation, Sanders would find heralded freshman Travis Hunter in the corner of the end-zone for a 19-yard touchdown. The ensuing PAT evened things up at 34-34 and sent the game into overtime.

Getting the ball first in OT, NC Central would fire off the opening salvo when the dynamic QB Richard took a one-yard keeper into the end zone for the score. Facing 3rd and goal on the one-yard line on its drive, JSU seemingly had its answer until tight end Hayden Hagler dropped what would’ve been the game-tying touchdown. With 4th and goal and the game once again on the line, Sanders was unable to create more magic as his ensuing pass to the end zone fell incomplete.

With the season now officially over, Deion will now focus 100% of his attention on Colorado where his son Shedeur will most likely follow him. One would expect the former five-star high school Hunter to follow them to Boulder as well. As for Jackson State, wide receivers coach T.C. Taylor will officially take over for Sanders as the new Tigers head coach.