Grambling State won the Celebration Bowl when it blocked an extra-point kick set back 15 yards by an excessive celebration with just over two minutes left, holding off North Carolina Central 10-9 Saturday.
Joseph McWilliams surged in and swatted Brandon McLaren's 35-yard try with 2:14 remaining to preserve the Tigers' edge.
Down 10-3, North Carolina Central had a chance to pull even after Quentin Atkinson shook loose and caught a 39-yard touchdown pass from scrambling Malcolm Bell. But Atkinson took off his helmet while reveling with the crowd, drawing a personal foul penalty.
Martez Carter's 32-yard touchdown run to open the second half gave Grambling State (11-1) its first lead. The Tigers earned the bowl bid by winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship to complete a dramatic resurgence by the program.
The Eagles (9-3) won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference under third-year coach Jerry Mack.
Trailing 3-0 at halftime, Grambling State opened the third quarter with a run-first plan. Following five power runs by 240-pound running back Jestin Kelly, the 175-pound Carter looked extra-quick on his sharp cuts through the line on his touchdown run for a 7-3 lead.
The Tigers threw only one play-action pass for a short gain on the touchdown drive.
Grambling State's defense later set up more points. Arkez Cooper sacked Bell, forcing a fumble recovered by Malcolm Williams at the Eagles 25. The turnover set up a 26-yard field goal by Jonathan Wallace.
McLaren's 23-yard field goal provided the only points of the first half. The kick capped a 13-play drive and followed a dropped 6-yard pass in the end zone by Atkinson on third down.
McLaren missed a 34-yarder late in the half.