Davius Richard’s NCCU Eagles Hope To Send Deion Sanders Off To PAC-12 With Another Celebration Bowl Loss

JACKSON, MS - OCTOBER 22: Deion Coach Prime Sander surveys the field of play during the Jackson State Tigers and Campbell Fighting Camels NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision game at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium on October 21, 2022 in Jackson, Mississippi. (Photo by Charles A. Smith/Jackson State University via Getty Images)

Since its inception in 2015 the Celebration Bowl has been a game of jubilation for MEAC teams and a house of horrors for SWAC participants. In all, the MEAC has won five of the first six de facto Black college national championships.

That was supposed to change last year with the Jackson State Tigers, but Deion Sanders’ team was upset easily by an overlooked South Carolina State Bulldogs 31-10.

North Carolina Central head coach Trei Olive saw the results last year and said in a press conference this week that also he likes his team’s chances on Saturday in Atlanta, especially with the best quarterback in the MEAC, Davius Richard at the helm. Richard set the record for total yards of offense at Central.

Who Is North Carolina Central QB Davius Richard? 

Richard and his teammate, defensive back Khalil Baker, were named the 2022 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year.

Richard comes from a rich football area in South Florida. He says he started playing football in the third grade because his brother and a lot of his friends were playing. In high school, Richard was named Palm Beach Area Offensive Player of the Year after tossing for more than 3,200 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior playing four sports (football, basketball, baseball, tennis), while sporting a 4.0 GPA.

He arrived at Central in 2019, three season after the Eagles last played for the de facto Black College Football National Championship.

“Jackson State is one of the best teams we have played this season,” a humble Richard said…”we come into every game treating it like another game. It’s all or nothing…It’s been a long season.”

“I let the work speak,” he continued. “At the end of the day, we are going to a Bowl game. Im just really excited for the guys to experience that too.”

JSU Looks To Avenge Celebration Bowl Loss 

The Tigers are back with head coach Deion Sanders for his final game on the JSU sidelines. Coach Prime would love nothing more than to complete the journey with the only thing that’s evaded him during his three-year tenure in Jackson.

Coach Prime steps off the plane in Atlanta to coach JSU one last time in the Celebration Bowl against NCCU

They’ll face the upstart and also overlooked North Carolina Central Eagles, a team that isn’t on anyone’s national radar. But come Saturday, their goal is to change that narrative. The Eagles are the only MEAC team to lose this event, having suffered a 10-9 loss to the Grambling State Tigers in 2016. They’ll be looking to avenge that blemish and make the MEAC 6-1 all-time in the game.

Eagles Are 16.5 Point Underdogs

The undefeated Tigers have been downright dominant this season, having outscored their 12 opponents 476-135 en route to a 12-0 record.

Oliver’s Eagles are playing with house money, sort of like Buddy Pough’s South Carolina State Bulldogs last year. No one outside of their locker room believes they can win. 

During Thursday’s media session, Oliver was pretty candid on the outlook of his team and the MEAC.

“We’re going to continue to do what we’ve done the last 11 games. I don’t have anything to do with how people perceive us and what they think about the strength of our conference.”

The MEAC only has six teams, compared with the SWAC, which has 12. Oliver recognizes good football when he sees it and having been an assistant with both Southern and Grambling State prior to coming NCCU, he respects the SWAC.

“The SWAC is a very good conference. They play good football in the SWAC. But at the same time, you know, we’ve (MEAC) had their number, and we play some pretty daggone good football here, too.

“You look at the records and they kind of speak for themselves. But you know that’s in the past. That’s history. We can’t go down there relying on what happened in the past that it will carry us in this game. Hopefully, we can put on a good performance and bring back the trophy to the East coast.”

A Win Would Be A Complete Culmination Of Jump To Division I

It’s now been 11 years since the Eagles made the jump from D-II in the CIAA to the MEAC. And while they’ve had some moments, nothing would top a win in the Celebration Bowl. And to be led by Oliver, a 1998 graduate of the Durham, North Carolina, HBCU would be even sweeter.

To do so they’ll need to send Coach Prime off to Boulder with a loss. It’s possible, while not likely.