By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
NEW HAVEN — As the HBCU football season enters its third week of play, seven schools remain unbeaten. Two teams in both the SIAC (Albany State and Clark Atlanta) and CIAA (Bowie State and Virginia State), one in the MEAC (North Carolina A&T), as well as independents Tennessee State and Langston are 2-0.
And to be fair, there’s a good amount of 1-1 teams that have been able to right the ship early on. For example, Grambling State and N.C. Central — last year’s Celebration Bowl participants — both bounced back last week after opening losses.
A week after their historic win at UNLV, Howard played another FBS opponent right down to the wire. The Bison fell 38-31 to Kent in a game that saw several lead changes before the Golden Flashes prevailed late.
Bethune-Cookman, Virginia Union, and Hampton also evened their records with wins.
The one common thread?
While it’s been an offensive showcase for many teams, the defenses aren’t far behind. The aforementioned Tigers of Grambling State rank first in the SWAC in sacks thus far this season with five. Brandon Varner (two), Linwood Banks (one), La’Allan Clark (one) and De’Andre Hogues (one) all rank in the top 15 in the category
Lineman Brandon Varner (two), Linwood Banks (one), La’Allan Clark (one) and linebacker De’Andre Hogues (one) all rank in the top 15 in the category. GSU also ranks sixth nationally in turnovers and first in the SWAC.
Under first-year head coach Gabe Giardina, Albany State has allowed only 27 plays from scrimmage, two first downs and 119 yards of total offense. They also pitched a shutout over the final three quarters in their 20-7 win over Tuskegee.
Also, the Jaguars of Southern rank best in the SWAC inside the 20 as they’ve allowed just one touchdown and opponents to score on four of six opportunities (3-of-4 on field goals attempts). They’ve also forced a turnover.
Grambling State has won seven straight home games at Eddie G. Robinson Memorial Stadium. Who was the last team to hand the Tigers a home loss?
(Answer comes at the end of the story)
GAMES TO WATCH
A&T is off to just its third 2-0 start in 15 seasons after defeating Mars Hill 56-0 last week. All those previous starts have come under head coach Rod Broadway over the past seven seasons. The Aggies’ last 3-0 start was 2013. This week, they’ll meet their first FBS opponent of the season as they travel to Charlotte (6 p.m. ET) to meet the 49ers. A&T has outscored their first two opponents 101-3 behind quarterback Lamar Raynard. The redshirt junior has thrown 92 straight passes without throwing a pick dating back to last October. UNCC began as an FCS school in 2013 after disbanding football in 1948. They officially joined the FBS and Conference USA in 2015. It’s the first gridiron meeting between the two schools.
While N.C. Central has a bye week, Howard (1-1) continues its three-game opening road trip this week against the Spiders of Richmond. Despite falling to Kent last week, the Bison have shown that their win at UNLV wasn’t a fluke. Mike London’s squad utilized a balanced attack with 452 yards of total offense in the 38-31 loss. He’ll be taking on his alma mater and the university where he started his coaching career. London was a defensive back at Richmond from 1979-82. In 2008, he was elevated to head coach of the Spiders, where he led them to an FCS National Title. In two seasons, he guided the program to a 24-5 overall record and two playoff appearances. The sixth-ranked Spiders (1-1) bounced back from an opening loss to Sam Houston State to defeat Colgate 20-17. The game, scheduled for a 2 p.m. ET start, can be seen live on CSN Mid-Atlantic.
After churning out over 1,000 yards of total offense in their first two wins, Clark Atlanta hits the road this week to battle Tuskegee (1-1) at Abbott Alumni Stadium. CAU’s 55 points against Central State was the most scored by an SIAC team since Tuskegee put up 62 points against Stillman in 2014. It’s also the most the Panthers have scored since 2013 when CAU defeated College of Faith 56-0. They’ll be meeting a TU squad that lost to Albany State for the first time in seven seasons. The Golden Tigers have won the last eight meetings against CAU and lead the overall series 60-16-2. The game can be seen live (1 p.m. ET) on Tuskegee Digital Network.
As for Albany State, they’ll host non-conference foe North Greenville at the ASU Coliseum. The Golden Rams (2-0) moved up to No. 16 in the latest American Football Coaches Association Division II Top 25 Poll, matching their highest ranking since September of 2012. It’s ASU’s first 2-0 start since 2011. The Rams reached the SIAC title game and the Division II playoffs that season. Ironically, it was the Crusaders (1-1) that eliminated ASU from the postseason that year with a 63-14 win at Tigerville, S.C. The game, scheduled for a 7 p.m. ET start, will be streamed live at http://www.asugoldenrams.com.
For the first time in five years, Grambling State will host Jackson State (0-2) at Eddie G. Robinson Memorial Stadium. The contest is considered a non-conference matchup due to the SWAC’s unbalanced seven-game schedule. GSU got 138 yards on the ground from Martez Carter and 231 passing yards from Devante Kincade in a win over Northwestern State last week. Despite their 23-10 victory, the Tigers dropped two more spots in the FCS Coaches Top 25 poll to No. 25, but in the STATS FCS Top 25 poll, GSU remained at No. 24. As for JSU, they lost a nailbiter to Tennessee State in the Southern Heritage Classic at Memphis. Terrell Kennedy’s 89-yard kickoff return for a touchdown cut the lead to 17-15 with 4:48 remaining, but a two-point conversion attempt on a pass failed to potentially knot the score. GSU leads the overall series 45-21-1 including last year’s 35-14 win at Jackson. The game, scheduled for 6 p.m. CT, can be seen live on ESPN3
Also, in the first of two straight home games at Jack Spinks-Marino Casem Stadium, Alcorn State (1-1) will battle McNeese State in a non-conference affair at 6 p.m. CT. The Braves are coming off a hard-fought 17-10 defeat to FIU last Friday at a neutral site in Birmingham, Alabama. The game was originally supposed to be played last Saturday in Miami but was moved due to Hurricane Irma. ASU senior quarterback Lenorris Footman ranks best in QB passing efficiency (134.4) and passing yards per game (226.5) but also ranks fifth in rushing yards per contest with 79.5 per game. McNeese (1-1, 0-1 SLC) fell at Nicholls State 37-35 in the last second to open the season but bounced back with a 42-21 win at home last weekend against Florida Tech. The Cowboys are receiving votes in the FCS Coaches Poll.
Fresh off their convincing 31-13 win over Winston-Salem State, Bowie State (2-0) seeks to maintain their perfect record when they visit the Falcons of St. Augustine’s (0-2) in Raleigh. The Bulldogs’ balanced attack of senior running back Robert Chesson (19 carries, 95 yards, 2 TDs) and junior quarterback Amir Hall (11-of-14, 94 yards, TD) was too much for WSSU as BSU ended a four-game losing streak to the Rams. They’ll face a Falcon squad that’s struggled in their losses to Carson-Newman (41-14) and Catawba College (49-0). Down 13-7 at the half, the Falcons allowed 28 consecutive points on four consecutive drives in the second half to fall to Overall, St. Aug’s is 2-2 against Bowie State since 2002. The Falcons have won the last two meetings including a 29-7 win at Bowie in 2013. The game can be heard live at http://www.waug-network.com.
As for the aforementioned Rams (1-1), they’ll look to bounce back on the road as they meet the Panthers of Virginia Union (1-1) in the Willard Bailey Football Classic at Hovey Field. VUU was able to even their record with a 31-23 win over Newberry College. The win was the first-ever for the Panthers over a Newberry team, who had taken the two previous meetings with VUU. It also marked the first time the Panthers beat a team from the South Atlantic Conference since VUU defeated Lenoir-Rhyne College 28-13 on August 30, 2007. The last time the Rams played in Richmond, they came away with a 55-15 win in 2013. WSSU leads the overall series 22-21-1.
CLASSIC SPOTLIGHT: THE TAMPA CLASSIC
After not playing a season ago, Tennessee State (2-0) and Florida A&M (1-1) will renew their long-standing rivalry on Saturday in the Tampa Classic at Raymond James Stadium. It will mark the 56th meeting between the schools, who played each other for many years as part of the Atlanta Football Classic at the Georgia Dome.
Last week, TSU remained perfect on the season with a 17-15 victory over Jackson State in the Southern Heritage Classic on Saturday. Overall it marked the sixth-straight win for TSU and JSU.
The win allowed the Tigers to move up one spot to No. 22 in the STATS Top 25 poll (they remained No. 24 in the coaches poll). The Tigers were clinging to a 10-9 lead near the end of the fourth quarter before senior Patrick Smith returned a punt 56 yards for a touchdown to account for the game-winning score.
Florida A&M opened the 2017 season with a Week Zero victory over Texas Southern before dropping a 49-7 decision to FBS foe Arkansas two weeks ago. In the win over Texas Southern, quarterback Ryan Stanley passed for 217 yards and a score to Brandon Norwood.
The FAMU rushing attack finished the game with a combined 193 rushing yards, including 81 from redshirt freshman Ricky Henrilus while Devin Bowers added 41 yards and a score. After netting 415 yards of total offense in that game, Florida A&M was limited to just 175 yards against Arkansas.
Rattlers’ AD Milton Overton announced earlier in the week that Saturday’s contest was being dedicated to all first responders and all Floridians that have been impacted by the recent hurricanes.
“All first responders and their immediate family members will be provided with complimentary tickets to the game and donations will be collected onsite for the American Red Cross to help Floridians who are still in need of assistance,” Overton added
OTHER NEWS N’ NOTES
PVAM SPORTS NETWORK EXPANDS TO HOUSTON, NATIONWIDE
Prairie View A&M University Athletics has a new home and expanded coverage for athletics broadcasts.
Now under the direction of Vice President /Director of Athletics Ashley Robinson and the PVAMU Athletics Department, the Panther Sports Network has a new radio home in Houston, expanded reach with select games broadcast on satellite radio, and a new online portal for audio and video broadcasts.
“Prairie View A&M University has always and continues to expand in new and exciting ways,” Robinson said. “This decade of Panther Athletics has seen that similar growth and excitement with new or renovated facilities for all of home venues, and the continued growth of our athletics programs. We are continually seeking innovative ways to promote our student-athletes and extensively brand our department.
“These new broadcast partnerships give us a significantly expanded platform to promote and highlight our 400 student-athletes, 18 Division I programs, and Prairie View A&M University. With the ability to reach millions in the Houston area for our football and basketball games, in addition, to select national broadcasts via satellite radio as well as our online platform, Panther Nation has the ability to support PVAMU Athletics through a variety of ways to serve every fan.”
Panther football and basketball games will now be broadcast on Synergy Radio 1480 AM / 95.3 FM, the newest talk radio station in the Houston market, with one of the largest broadcast signals in the area. Last week’s football season opener against Sam Houston St. was broadcast live throughout the market. Synergy Radio Network (SRN) brings listeners a powerful lineup of the top thought leaders in the country. SRN delivers empowering conversations daily on motivation, lifestyle, and business, from Grammy Award Winner Yolanda Adams to International Motivational Speaker Les Brown to Emmy Award Winner Rushion McDonald.
The Panther Sports Network has also reached an agreement with the Heritage Sports Radio Network (HSRN) for select national broadcasts of PVAMU football and basketball games on Sirius / XM Satellite radio. Last week’s football game was also simulcast on Sirius/XM 204. The Sept. 23 football game at Alabama State and the Oct. 7 State Fair Classic vs. Grambling will be broadcast on satellite radio.
Founded in 2006, HSRN was founded in Hartly, DE and created to provide a sports voice for the HBCU community. The network broadcasts games from over 25 colleges and universities and has provided coverage of the SWAC Football and Basketball Championships, the NCAA Division II Basketball Final Four, and championship events in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), and Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (CIAA).
All PVAMU sports broadcasts now originate on the new online portal at pvpanthers.com/sportsnetwork. In partnership with Stretch Internet, Panther Nation can now listen and watch PVAMU Sports Network produced games, shows, and special events live and on demand all on one broadcast portal.
Stretch Internet, based in Gilbert, AZ, was founded in 2003 and delivers high-quality streaming to college and university athletic departments. Stretch Internet now works with nearly 600 colleges and universities, high schools and professional sports organizations. A devotion to utilizing the best streaming technology possible and providing a first-class user experience – backed by the best customer support in the business – have helped Stretch Internet become one of the largest streaming media specialists in the sports industry.
In their home opener for 2015, Bethune-Cookman defeated Grambling State 56-53 on September 12th.