By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
NEW HAVEN — While some schools still have a non-conference game left on their early schedule, week four is the first full week of conference play for most HBCU schools this Saturday.
It began in earnest Thursday in Durham as defending MEAC champion N.C. Central hosted South Carolina State (see the result below) in the first of the league’s Thursday night showcases on ESPNU.
North Carolina A&T gave the MEAC another FBS triumph last week when they defeated UNC Charlotte 35-31 at Jerry Richardson Stadium. With the win, the Aggies (3-0) jumped five spots in the NCAA FCS Coaches Poll to No. 15.
They also leaped in the STATS FCS Media Poll by moving four places upward to No. 21. They’ll be seeking their first 4-0 start in 24 years Saturday at 7 p.m. ET when they travel to Baltimore to face the Morgan State Bears at Hughes Stadium.
The Bears (0-3) have won seven of the last nine against the Aggies since 2006. They are 2-2 against Aggie head coach Rod Broadway.
In the CIAA, Bowie State (3-0) and Virginia State (2-0) will look to stay perfect as they open league play at home. Coming off last week’s bye, the Trojans welcome Winston-Salem State (2-1, 1-0 CIAA) to Rogers Stadium for a 6 p.m. ET kickoff.
The Rams outlasted Virginia Union 21-20 last week in a designated non-conference contest. The game pits the league’s top two rushers in WSSU’s Kerrion Moore (148.5 yards per game) and VSU’s Trenton Cannon (138.3).
As for Bowie, they’ll host Shaw (1-2) at Bulldogs Stadium in a 6 p.m. ET kickoff. While the Bears got their first win of the year last week against Malone, BSU quarterback Amir Hall threw six TD passes in the Bulldogs’ thumping of Saint Augustine’s.
The 66-20 victory over the Falcons helped put the undefeated Bulldogs (now ranked No. 23rd) in the AFCA Division II Coaches Top 25 Poll for the first time since November of 2015
In the SWAC, Grambling State (2-1) also moved up the FCS polls following their 36-21 win against Jackson State. The Tigers moved up three spots in the coaches poll to No. 22 and jumped up two spots to No. 22 in the media’s top 25.
Since the JSU victory was considered a non-conference game, GSU will open SWAC play at Rice-Totten Stadium in Itta Bena, Mississippi (6 p.m. CT) when they meet the winless Delta Devils.
Also, independents Tennessee State and Langston will seek to remain unbeaten this weekend. TSU is off to a 3-0 start for the second-straight season following a 24-13 win over Florida A&M in the inaugural Tampa Classic.
Ranked No. 20 in both major FCS polls — their highest ranking since being ranked 14th in 2014 — the Tigers will open Ohio Valley Conference play against the Seahawks of UT Martin (2-1).
It also marks the kickoff to the Sgt. York Trophy series which is contested between the four OVC schools from the state of Tennessee. The two teams have split the last six contests in the series, with TSU claiming a 34-30 victory last year.
The game, set for 4 p.m. CT, can be seen live on ESPN3 and the OVC Digital Network.
As for the Lions (2-0, 1-0 CSFL), they’ll resume NAIA action Saturday (2 p.m. CT) when they face off with Bacone College in the Oklahoma City Classic. Langston opens the season 2-0 for the second straight year and 1-0 in the Central States Football League for the first time since 2014.
Two weeks ago, LU used a 27-point second half to key a 41-14 victory over the Scots of Lyon College at Pioneer Stadium. Quarterback Jaylen Lowe finished 17-for-23 for 202 yards and two touchdowns and tallied 72 yards on 12 carries.
Bowie State quarterback Amir Hall has thrown for 888 yards and 11 touchdown passes through his first three games of the season. Who holds the CIAA record for the most passing yards in a single season?
(Answer comes at the end of the story)
OTHER KEY GAMES
A group of games which match conference foes for the first time since 2014 takes place this week. Thursday’s SC State-NCCU contest, as well as A&T at Morgan, are a part of games that are back on the schedule after a two-year hiatus due to the MEAC’s unbalanced schedule.
One other matchup under that umbrella includes Bethune-Cookman (1-2) at Howard (1-2). Saturday’s contest (1 p.m. ET) marks the fourth consecutive road game to begin the 2017 campaign for the Wildcats. Dating back to last season, BCU will have played seven consecutive games away from Municipal Stadium.
The Bison, who’ve lost twice since their upset win against UNLV, have lost six consecutive games against BCU, and haven’t beaten the Wildcats in the Nation’s Capital since 1996. Bethune-Cookman leads the all-time series at 29-13-2.
Also, Hampton (2-1, 1-0) seeks their third straight win as they host non-conference foe, Monmouth (2-1) at Armstrong Stadium (2 p.m. ET). The Pirates blanked Livingstone 59-0 for their shutout since a 33-0 win over Florida A&M on Nov. 7, 2015. It was also their largest shutout since a 60-0 win over Norfolk State on Oct. 17, 1992.
Morehouse College (2-1) and Miles College (1-2) are two of four SIAC teams that remain unbeaten in conference play. They’ll meet each other at Sloan Alumni Stadium in Birmingham (5 p.m. ET) coming off a pair of impressive road wins. The Maroon Tigers (2-0 SIAC) held off Central State 35-33 in a slugfest at Wilberforce, Ohio.
Morehouse was paced by senior quarterback Kivon Taylor. The SIAC’s Offensive Player of the Week, Taylor completed 17 of 27 passes, for 247 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed seven times for 21 yards and orchestrated third-quarter scoring drives of 42, 55 and 76 yards. His one-yard rushing touchdown was the game-winning score.
The Golden Bears got their first win of the year as they defeated the defending SIAC champions 29-10 at Wildcat Stadium. Miles never trailed in the game as they beat FVSU for the second consecutive season.
The Miles defense played its best game of the season. it forced two turnovers in the red zone – one on an interception in the end zone and the other on a forced fumble when FVSU had first-and-goal on the Miles 1 in the third quarter.
Also, Tuskegee (2-1, 1-1) and Albany State (2-1, 1-0) have out-of-conference affairs at Findlay (1 p.m.) and West Georgia (2 p.m.) respectively. For the Golden Rams, it’s the start of a two-game road trip. After winning their home opener last week, the Golden Tigers will be on the road until their homecoming match against Central State on October 28.
Seeking a conference-opening victory for the sixth year in a row, Alcorn State (1-2) will host Southern (1-2) at Jack Spinks-Marino Casem Stadium. The Jaguars have been playing without senior quarterback Austin Howard, who injured his knee in the season opener against South Carolina State.
His status for Saturday is still uncertain.
It’s been a wild ride thus far for SU as the Jaguars have gained eight turnovers but has also lost seven for a league-leading total of 15. The Braves have won five of the last six meetings including the 2014 SWAC Championship game 38-24. ASU leads the overall series at 35-27-2.
Alcorn quarterback Lenorris Footman threw for a career-high 424 yards in a tight defeat at McNeese State in week three. The passing yardage was the third highest total mark in a single game in FCS football this season. The senior also ranks sixth in the nation in total passing yards with 877.
The game, scheduled for a 6 p.m. CT start, can be seen live on the SWAC Digital Network.
And in the category of “something’s gotta give”, Alabama State (0-3) hosts Prairie View (0-2) at Montgomery while Texas Southern (0-2) visits Alabama A&M (0-3) in the annual Louis Crews Classic.
Both games are scheduled for a 6 p.m. CT kickoff. The Hornets are looking to get their first win over the Panthers since a 48-42 overtime victory in 2013. The game will be streamed live at http://www.bamastatesports.com.
Both Fayetteville State and Virginia Union will be in a foul mood when they battle each other at Hovey Field in Richmond at 1 p.m. ET. Since VUU’s loss to Winston-Salem last week was a designated non-conference game, Saturday’s contest will be the Panthers’ (1-2) CIAA opener.
Quarterback Darius Taylor had a solid game for VUU. He completed 11 of 17 passes for 127 yards a game that saw the lead change three times. Taylor was also the Panthers’ leading rusher, with 86 yards on 14 carries.
The Broncos (1-2) were also on the short end of a see-saw affair last week as they fell to Elizabeth City State in the 20th Down East Viking Classic. FSU tailback Stevie Green was named the game’s offensive MVP following his standout day.
Green, last year’s CIAA Rookie of the Year, scrambled 250 yards for four touchdowns on 23 carries. His 66-yard scoring play early in the fourth quarter would tie the game at 35-35.
Each team would then exchange another touchdown. With 2:50 remaining, a defensive offside penalty would give ECSU’s Joshua Laverty a second attempt at a 29-yard field goal; which would give the Vikings its ninth Classic victory.
CLASSIC SHOWCASE: CIRCLE CITY CLASSIC
Two SIAC teams headed in opposite directions will renew their rivalry Saturday in Indianapolis at the 34th annual Circle City Classic at Lucas Oil Stadium (3 p.m. ET). Fresh off their first win of the season, the Thoroughbreds of Kentucky State (1-2) look to extend their nine-game win streak against rival Central State University (0-3, 0-2 SIAC).
In their 30-23 win last week against Kentucky Wesleyan, KSU rode the momentum of an aggressive defensive line, sacking Panthers quarterback Mike McGee seven times, along with the play of sophomore running back Brett Sylve accounting for 100 yards rushing and a special teams touchdown.
So far the season has been a struggle for the winless Marauders. Despite leading at the half for the second consecutive home game, CSU was unable to finish in a 35-33 loss to Morehouse College.
The lead changed hands eight times in the see-saw affair. CSU had a chance to take the lead late, but a mishandled snap on a field goal attempt resulted in a loss of possession with 4:53 left in the game.
Saturday marks the fourth straight year the Circle City Classic has played host to the CSU-KSU rivalry, which dates back to 1947. CSU currently owns a 35-21-1 advantage in the all-time series with the only tie coming in 1957.
The Marauders have a long history of competing in the Circle City Classic dating back to 1986. CSU has a 3-4 all-time record in the Classic with wins coming in 1986, 1987, and 1992.
Since CSU joined the SIAC in 2013, the game holds significant implications in the SIAC West Division race. The Thorobreds used last year’s victory over CSU to jumpstart their season which included the West Division crown and appearance in the SIAC Championship Game.
Freshman backup quarterback Chauncey Caldwell threw for two touchdowns and rushed for 77 yards to help host N.C. Central beat S.C. State 33-28 on Thursday night in the MEAC opener for both teams in Durham.
NCCU (2-1), the defending MEAC champions, won its 16th consecutive conference game.
Eagle starter Micah Zanders left the game early in the second quarter after taking a hard hit and did not return. Caldwell was also injured in the fourth quarter, but third-stringer Naiil Ramadan had a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jacen Murphy to pull the Eagles within 28-26. Ramadan’s two-point conversion attempt was stopped short.
Caldwell returned later in the fourth and NCCU took its first lead of the second half on his 38-yard connection with a wide-open Josh McCoy with 5:24 left. S.C. State’s final drive started at its 21 with 2:24 remaining, but the Bulldogs were stopped on four downs.
Dewann Ford threw for 221 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for two more scores for S.C. State (1-2).
NEWS AND NOTES
SIAC, ASPIRE TV RENEW BROADCAST AGREEMENT
The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) and ASPIRE TV have announced a partnership to televise regular season football games. The first SIAC game to be televised on ASPIRE TV will feature Miles College hosting Albany State University on Saturday, September 30 at 6:00 PM CT.
“We are excited about continuing our partnership with ASPIRE TV,” said Gregory Moore, Commissioner, SIAC. “Last year, the SIAC led NCAA Division II in average football attendance for the fourteenth consecutive year. This partnership will provide our passionate alumni and fans with access to an additional platform which we expect to ultimately provide SIAC member schools and student-athletes with national broadcast exposure opportunities.”
The broadcast team will feature veteran play-by-play announcer James Verrett and 14 year NFL veteran, two-time Super Bowl Champion and Fort Valley State University legend Tyrone Poole.
The 2017 SIAC Football Broadcast Schedule will feature the following conference games:
Saturday, September 30 – Albany State University vs. Miles College – 6 p.m. CT
Saturday, October 7 – Morehouse College vs. Tuskegee University – 2 p.m. ET
Saturday, October 28 – Benedict College vs. Albany State University – 2 p.m. ET
In 1993, Virginia State’s Greg Clark threw for a CIAA record 3,437 yards for the Trojans who finished 10-1 that season. The Offensive Player of the Year, Clark also threw for a school-record 38 touchdown passes and was runner-up for SBN’s Black College Player of the Year award.