DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina Central wasn’t getting a whole lot of respect heading into their nationally televised showdown with Alcorn State on Saturday.
“But those people in that locker room that had those maroon jerseys on, they knew what we had in that locker room,” smiled Eagles head coach Trei Oliver.
What they had, was a team that showed a lot of heart in Central’s 23-14 upset win over Alcorn State in the annual MEAC/SWAC Challenge in Atlanta.
The victory may not have surprised Oliver, but it sure did for those who pick games for a living.
The ESPN Gameday crew was live for the contest giving the N.C. Central program a huge amount of exposure.
But when it came time for the ESPN panel to pick a winner, not one chose the Eagles.
“It didn’t matter, they should have picked Alcorn,” Oliver admitted. “If you look at what they’ve done in the past, they’re a championship team. The last time we stepped on the field we didn’t have the best season.”
That would be 2019 when the Eagles finished 4-8 and lost its last two games by a combined score of 99-0.
“I’m sick and tired of hearing about 2019, I’m tired of it,” said Oliver. “We’re a different football team, we’re a much better football team.”
The Eagles proved that to Alcorn State, ESPN and the nation on Saturday. Central fell behind early but battled back to take the lead and never were threatened after halftime.
“Everybody who rode on that bus down there with us, the 125 that went down there with us believed we that we were going to win that football game,” said Oliver.
Especially those who put the pads on. And a little extra motivation certainly didn’t hurt.
“They weren’t surprised that Alcorn was picked,” Oliver said. “We just knew ‘let’s put the ball down’ and that’s what we said all week. Let’s put the ball down and we’ll see.