By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
NEW HAVEN — For the second time in as many weeks, another hurricane and its impending fury have been the cause for changes the HBCU football schedule. As of press time, Saturday’s game between South Carolina State and Charleston Southern at Orangeburg was canceled.
The game was postponed due to the weather threat posed by Hurricane Irma and the State of Emergency issued by the state of South Carolina. Officials at S.C. State University will continue to monitor the path and potential impact of the hurricane to the campus.
Also, in anticipation of Hurricane Irma hitting South Florida on Saturday, the scheduled game between Alcorn State and Florida International was moved to Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala. at 6 p.m. CT on Friday.
The neutral site game will be hosted by the University of Alabama-Birmingham. It’s the first-ever meeting between the Braves (1-0) and the Panthers (0-1). The game will be free of charge.
Barely two weeks into the season and both the CIAA and SIAC have games this weekend that will have a major bearing on their championship contests in November. And to the delight of HBCU fans around the country, both of those games are also going to be featured on national TV.
At 4 p.m. ET, the Rams of Winston-Salem State will host the Bulldogs of Bowie State in a rematch of last year’s CIAA title tilt won by the Rams 44-33. Tabbed by the league coaches to repeat as Northern Division champs, Bowie State opened the season strong last week in their 48-7 win over Seton Hill.
The Bulldogs were dominant in all three phases of the game as the offense racked up 599 yards of total offense, the defense held the Griffins to 161 yards of total offense and special teams didn’t give up any big plays.
The offense was led by junior quarterback Amir Hall, the CIAA’s reigning and preseason Offensive Player of the Year. Hall completed 23-of-26 passes for 361 yards and six total touchdowns (five passing and one rushing).
As for the Rams, they’re are coming off an impressive win themselves in which they took down the previously 19th-ranked team in the country in UNC Pembroke 34-31. WSSU, who are now ranked 19th, was dominant in the run game in which their starting running back Kerrion Moore ran for 230 yards.
Despite losing last year’s championship game, the Bulldogs outgained the Rams but lost the contest in the turnover category. The Rams have won four consecutive games in the series dating back to 2012. WSSU also holds a 15-5 edge in the overall series.
The home opener at Bowman Gray Stadium can be seen live on ESPN3.
Meanwhile, at 5 p.m. ET — also on ESPN3 — the White Water Classic between SIAC rivals Albany State and Tuskegee will take place at Garrett-Harrison Stadium in Phenix City, Ala. Both teams won their season openers last week and they enter Saturday’s contest ranked in the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Top 25 Poll.
In the league’s preseason poll, Tuskegee was tabbed to win the Western Division by the SIAC coaches. They also chose Albany State to be the team to beat in the Eastern Division race.
The 20th-ranked Golden Rams defeated Valdosta State 29-12 in their home opener. Playing under first-year head coach Gabe Giardina, ASU dominated VSU in turnovers, short fields, and defensive touchdowns which led them to a 23-0 lead in the fourth quarter.
It was the Golden Rams’ first win over the Blazers since 2004.
As for the Golden Tigers, ranked 22nd in the poll, they also were impressive in their road victory against FCS opponent Alabama State. In the 14-6 win, Tuskegee put together a strong defensive presence.
They were led by preseason All-American linebacker Osband Thompson. The SIAC’s reigning and preseason Defensive Player of the Year, Thompson had 14 tackles, two quarterback hurries, and one forced fumble.
However, it was defensive lineman Kenderius McCutcheon that had the biggest play of the day. The senior returned a 46-yard interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to help seal the win.
In the last four meetings with Albany State, Tuskegee has not allowed the Golden Rams to score more than 20 points. Dating back to 2013, head coach Willie Slater is 4-0 all time against Albany State including last year’s 28-18 win.
Both games are part of ESPN’s season-long Division II football showcase.
CLASSIC SPOTLIGHT: 28th SOUTHERN HERITAGE CLASSIC
While most of the football world focused on Howard’s upset of UNLV, the Tigers of Tennessee State pulled off a huge win last weekend as well. Rod Reed’s crew opened the 2017 season by defeating an FBS opponent for the first time as a member of the OVC (and the first time overall since 1984) in topping Georgia State 17-10 and spoiling the debut of the Panthers’ new stadium.
The victory propelled the Tigers to No. 23 in the STATS Top 25 poll and No. 24 in the FCS Coaches Top 25, marking the second-straight season the program has been ranked. In the game, TSU limited Georgia State to 49 rushing and 273 yards of total offense.
As for Jackson State, they opened the season at TCU and was limited to just 65 yards of total offense in falling 63-0. The Tigers gained 40 yards on the first possession of the game, moving the ball to the TCU 35-yard line. Unfortunately, that was as close as JSU would get to the end zone, only advancing the ball into TCU territory once more during the game.
This year marks the 24th year in a row that the teams have squared off in the Classic which began in 1990. Tennessee State had won seven-straight in the series until Jackson State pulled off wins in 2010 and 2011, but since TSU has claimed victory in each of the last five years.
Tennessee State is 16-11 all-time in the event while Jackson State is 9-16. The all-time series between the two schools is at 28-20-2 in favor of Tennessee State. The game, scheduled for a 6 p.m. CT start, can be seen on FOX Sports Southeast on a tape-delayed basis.
Saturday’s game between Jackson State and Tennessee State in the 28th Southern Heritage Classic will be the 26th meeting between the two schools. Who are the only other schools that Tennessee State has played in the Classic?
(Answer comes at end of the story)
OTHER KEY GAMES
Still basking in the glow of their historic upset over UNLV, the Bison of Howard University travel to Kent University to battle the Golden Flashes. Ironically, Howard’s win over the Rebels last week marked the second straight year the MEAC has earned an FBS win. In 2016, North Carolina A&T defeated Kent at Dix Stadium a year ago this weekend. The Golden Flashes (0-1) have won 12 of their last 16 home openers, most recently a 45-13 win over Delaware State in 2015. The game, scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET, can be seen live on ESPN3.
Speaking of the Aggies (1-0), they’ll host Division II opponent Mars Hill in their home opener at 6 p.m. ET. In their season opener, A&T held Gardner-Webb to 114 yards of total offense while compiling 414 yards of offense themselves to down the Bulldogs 45-3 at Spangler Stadium. The Aggies’ defense didn’t allow GWU to cross midfield until there was 12:32 remaining in the game. As for Mars Hill (1-0), they churned out 393 total yards of offense in their 40-14 win over Shorter University, averaging 6.2 per play. The Lions’ defense held SU to just 78 yards rushing and had four sacks in the contest. It’s the first football meeting between the two schools.
Coming off an impressive season opening win, the Panthers of Clark Atlanta will square off with the Marauders of Central State at CAU Panther Stadium. It took a Carlos Saldana 43-yard field goal in overtime to give CAU a 32-29 over Mississippi College. The Choctaws erased a 22-14 halftime deficit midway through the third quarter and took a 29-22 lead with 2:03 remaining. A one-yard plunge by Johnathon McCrary at the end of regulation sent the game to the extra session.
CSU was plagued by five turnovers as they fell to Elizabeth City State 34-23 in the Marauders’ home opener. They led 14-7 at the half, but ECSU would gradually get back in the contest. Pinned back inside of their own 10-yard line, a mishandled snap by ECSU gave CSU a safety at the 14:28 mark of the third. From that point on, the Vikings regained their focus and seized momentum, scoring the next 27 points.
Also as an added bonus, Florida storm evacuees of Hurricane Irma who can show their Florida state identification card can get free admission to the contest, which kicks off at 7 p.m. ET
Clark Atlanta President Dr. Ronald A. Johnson, Athletics Director Lin Dawson, and Head Football Coach Kevin Ramsey extended the invitation Friday to those affected by Hurricane Irma.
“We want to welcome our neighbors from the South who are experiencing anxiety due to the hurricane,” said Dawson. “We hope this small gesture in some way will ease their burdens a bit and allow them to relax with a few hours of good football. As a university, we are looking forward to extending our hospitality beyond this event.”
Looking to bounce back from their 43-14 loss to Tulane, Grambling State (0-1) hosts Northwestern State (0-1) in the Tigers’ home opener at refurbished Robinson Stadium (6 p.m. CT). The Tigers are looking to avoid back-to-back losses since the 2015 season while the Demons are making the back-to-back trip to the area after falling on the road last week to Louisiana Tech. GSU head coach Broderick Fobbs was an assistant coach at Northwestern State from 2002-2006. Grambling State leads the all-time series, 2-1.
Also, Southern (1-0) will have their hands full as they travel to Hattiesburg (6 p.m. CT) to meet Southern Mississippi (0-1). The Jaguars and Golden Eagles are meeting for the first time on the gridiron, but they’re not complete strangers. Former Alcorn State head coach Jay Hopson is beginning his second season at Hattiesburg. Southern Miss dropped their home opener to the University of Kentucky 24-17 last Saturday. The Golden Eagles are 5-0 all-time against SWAC opponents including a 2-0 mark against Alcorn State and Jackson State. The game can be seen live on Stadium TV at http://www.watchstadium.com.
Last week, Fayetteville State (1-0) won their first season opener since 2008 when they outlasted Chowan 24-21. They’ll host Wingate (1-0) in their home opener Saturday (6 p.m. ET) at Jeralds Stadium. FSU got the victory despite allowing 467 yards of offense from the Hawks. As for Wingate, they defeated Johnson C. Smith 38-18 in Charlotte last week in their season opener. The Bulldogs and the Broncos will meet for the first time since 2007.
And, Virginia State seeks to open 2-0 for the second straight season as they face J. C. Smith (0-1) in a non-conference matchup. The Trojans won their first Labor Day Classic since 2012 when they defeated Norfolk State 14-10 last week at Dick Price Stadium. Saturday’s contest will mark the first time both schools have met since 2013. In that matchup, the Trojans secured a 19-17 victory over the Golden Bulls. Kickoff is slated for 4 p.m. ET at The Irwin Belk Complex in Charlotte.
Sam Houston State 44, Prairie View A&M 31
Houston Baptist 24, Texas Southern 17
In the 1991 Southern Heritage Classic, Mississippi Valley State defeated Tennessee State 10-7. Two years later, Tennessee State lost to Grambling State 33-28.