North Carolina A&T rides big plays to Celebration Bowl win vs. Alcorn St.

North Carolina A&T running back Tarik Cohen piled up the yards on three massive touchdown runs Saturday vs. Alcorn State.

Brett Davis/Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

ATLANTA — Tarik Cohen rushed for 295 yards and touchdowns of 83, 74 and 73 yards Saturday, and North Carolina A&T used a slew of big plays for a 41-34 win over Alcorn State in the Celebration Bowl at the Georgia Dome.

The Celebration Bowl, matching champions of the two historically black Division-I conferences, had four scoring plays in the first quarter cover a combined 315 yards.

Cohen’s 73-yard scoring run with 4:17 left in the game was the game-winner, although Alcorn State threatened the Aggies till the end. Only when Lenorris Footman’s fourth-and-goal pass from the 9-yard-line sailed over a receiver with nine seconds left was North Carolina A&T (10-2) safe.

Cohen, the game MVP, added two receptions for 53 yards for the Aggies, champions of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

Alcorn State (9-4), champion of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, was led by Footman. He passed for 144 yards and two scores, rushed for 62 yards, and caught a 9-yard touchdown pass as the Braves rallied from a 24-6 second-quarter deficit to tie the game twice, at 27-all and 34-all.

Khris Gardin gave A&T a quick lead on a 74-yard punt return just 1:24 into the game, and Anthony Williams returned the favor moments later with an 84-yard punt return to pull Alcorn State within 7-6.

Cohen popped scoring runs of 74 and 83 yards on the Aggies’ next two possessions, and A&T pushed its lead to 24-6 when Cody Jones was good on a 45-yard field goal with 11:31 left in the first half.

Alcorn State, which beat Grambling State in the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship, rallied to tie on the strength of trick plays.

Footman threw a 10-yard scoring pass to running back Aaron Baker in the second quarter, caught a 9-yard touchdown from wide receiver Tollette George in the third quarter, and threw an 11-yarder to George to tie it at 27-27 with 12:57 left in the game.

Alcorn State wide receiver Brandon Vessell helped the Braves tie again when he threw a 3-yard scoring strike to tight end Brandon Campbell with 5:10 to go.

Two plays later, the 5-foot-6, 173-pound Cohen took off up the middle, pulling away from multiple defenders for his third score to put the Braves ahead for good.

Alcorn State did not go quietly, but after reaching first-and-goal at the A&T 9-yard line, Footman threw four straight incompletions.