By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
NEW HAVEN — As most schools are either beginning or continuing a stretch of conference games over the next few weeks, there’s one non-conference matchup that catches our eye heading into the weekend.
The 20th edition of the Chicago Football Classic offers an intriguing matchup between a pair of teams from the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) and the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC). The Tigers of Grambling State will meet the Panthers of Clark Atlanta at Soldier Field in a scheduled 3:30 p.m. CT kickoff.
The Tigers and Panthers come into the contest with identical 3-1 overall records and off victories last weekend. Grambling State picked up a 38-6 road win against Mississippi Valley State to open SWAC play, while CAU began SIAC action with a 31-7 victory over Lane.
GSU is ranked No. 19 in the FCS Coaches Poll, No. 21 in the STATS FCS Top 25 Poll, and No. 1 in the SBN Sports Network Black College Football Poll. The Tigers are also ranked No. 1 in the SWAC in seven different categories.
As for the Panthers, they forced five second-half turnovers en route to their convincing victory over the Dragons. CAU’s running game, one of the best in the SIAC, rushed for 194 yards, one touchdown and averaged 5.1 yards per carry.
Grambling State first played in the contest in 1999 and defeated Alcorn State, 41-25.
Clark Atlanta’s first appearance in the Classic was last year as the Panthers handed Central State a 20-13 loss.
It’s the first meeting between the two schools. The game can be heard live on the Grambling State Sports Radio Network.
What HBCU’s competed in the inaugural Chicago Football Classic in 1997?
(Answer comes at the end of the story)
OTHER KEY GAMES
Both Bowie State (4-0, 1-0 CIAA) and Virginia State (3-0, 1-0) will look to remain unbeaten this weekend. Coming off a pair of impressive home wins last week, they’ll both need to win on the road to stay perfect.
The Bulldogs are back on the road for the fourth time in five weeks and will take on another CIAA Southern Division foe in the Fayetteville State Broncos (1-3, 0-1). The BSU defense will have their hands full with one of the top running backs in the reigning CIAA Rookie of the Year and preseason first-team All-CIAA in Stevie Green.
Green is number one in the conference in rushing yards with 533 and number two in touchdowns with five. The Bulldogs’ defense hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all year and has allowed just 11.8 points per game.
FSU leads the overall series 15-13-1 and since 2000, the two are at an even tilt with a 5-5 series record. Kickoff at Jerald Stadium is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET. The game can be seen live at https://www.youtube.com/c/FSUBroncosLive/live.
As for the Trojans, they’ll be traveling to Salisbury, N.C. to face the winless Blue Bears of Livingstone College (0-4, 0-1) at Alumni Memorial Stadium. In a wild affair at Rogers Stadium last week, VSU outlasted Winston-Salem State 33-27 in overtime.
In a game that saw nearly 1,000 yards of total offense (941) between the two teams, the Rams overcame an early 19-7 deficit and took a 27-19 lead in the fourth quarter. A three-yard scoring run by Trenton Cannon with 40 seconds left in regulation and a two-point conversion would send the game to overtime.
Thomas Koufie’s 17-yard scoring run in OT would give VSU the victory. The Trojans are seeking their first 4-0 start since 1993 when they opened the season 5-0. The Blue Bears led Chowan 12-10 at the half last week but eventually fell 25-12 against the Hawks.
The game, scheduled for 6 p.m. ET, can be heard live at http://cast5.servcast.net:2199/tunein/wvst913fm-stream.asx.
Friday night’s Alcorn State at Texas Southern contest was this week’s opening salvo in the league. Meanwhile, Alabama A&M (1-3, 1-0 SWAC) will host Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2-2, 1-0) in the Bulldogs’ homecoming game (2 p.m. CT) at Huntsville.
Tied with the Braves atop the SWAC’s Eastern Division, A&M piled up 505 yards of total offense in their 30-13 win over Texas Southern in the Louis Crews Classic. Freshman quarterback Aqueel Glass completed 22 of 37 passes for 337 yards and two touchdowns.
As for the Golden Lions, they rallied from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter and came back to defeat Jackson State 34-27 in overtime at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.
UAPB scored 18 unanswered points, including LeEar Patterson’s one-yard scoring run in the extra session, to stun the Tigers and win the W.C. Gorden Classic. JSU has now lost eight straight dating back to last season.
The Tigers (0-4, 0-1) will seek to end their losing streak as they travel to Prairie View to meet the Panthers (4 p.m. CT). Willie Simmons’ squad (1-2, 1-0) had their first shutout since 2009 last week as they blanked Alabama State 34-0 at Montgomery.
The Panthers held ASU to 127 total yards and only seven first downs, forcing three turnovers and scoring a touchdown of their own. The shutout was also the first on the road since a 15-0 win at Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Oct. 18, 2008.
The Panthers have won three straight against JSU, including a 28-14 road win at last year.
The first of three conference games to be featured on ASPIRE TV will take place this weekend in Fairfield, Alabama as Miles College (2-2, 2-0 SIAC) host Albany State (2-2, 1-0) at Sloan-Alumni Stadium.
The Golden Bears have won their first two conference games following an 0-2 start. The MC defense forced two fumbles that led to two late field goals and became the difference in their 27-24 triumph over Morehouse College in the Prince Hall Americanism Football Classic.
Albany State’s promising 2-0 start, including a 20-7 win over rival Tuskegee, has been derailed in the last two weeks. The Golden Rams have not only lost two straight, they’ve also allowed over 500 yards of total offense to both opponents.
Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT.
Also, Kentucky State (2-2, 1-0) travels to Atlanta to meet the aforementioned Maroon Tigers at B.T. Harvey Stadium. The Thorobreds are coming off back-to-back wins against Kentucky Wesleyan College and Central State University, and have started off conference play with 1-0 mark for the second time in three seasons.
As for Morehouse (2-2, 2-1), they’re currently ranked as the No. 1 defense in the SIAC, allowing 260.8 yards per game. One of the strengths for the Maroon Tigers has been their ability to win the battle in the trenches. They have 15 sacks through the first four games of the season.
Morehouse dropped their latest contest with Miles College 27-24, but share a similar SIAC victory with KSU, as they defeated Central State 35-33 just two weeks ago. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET.
N.C. Central’s 21-14 victory over Florida A&M in Tallahassee on Thursday night was the start of a short three-game schedule in the conference this week. Isaiah Totten’s nine-yard run with 2:02 remaining was the margin of victory.
Meanwhile, North Carolina A&T (4-0, 0-1) will look to remain undefeated when they travel to Orangeburg, S.C. to face the South Carolina State Bulldogs at Oliver C. Dawson Stadium.
The Aggies used three interceptions — including two for touchdowns — from defensive back Franklin McCain III and 514 yards of total offense to thrash Morgan State 49-17 in their MEAC opener last week in Baltimore.
The grandfather of famous civil rights icon Franklin McCain, the freshman has five interceptions for 274 return yards on the season. He leads the nation in interceptions per game. He also became only one of 28 players in FCS history to return two INTs for touchdowns in a game.
As for the Bulldogs (1-2, 0-1), they fell short in their league opener last Thursday as N.C. Central outlasted them 33-28 in Durham. Redshirt sophomore DeWann Ford threw 17-of-25 for 223 yards and two touchdowns in the loss.
The Bulldogs lead the overall series 31-20-2, however the Aggies won last year’s matchup 30-20 at Greensboro. The game, scheduled for a 6 p.m. ET kickoff, can be seen live at https://www.flofootball.com.
Also, Savannah State (0-3, 0-1) will travel to Daytona Beach to meet Bethune-Cookman (1-3, 0-1). While both schools are seeking their first conference win, the Wildcats will be trying to avenge last year’s 16-10 defeat to the Tigers. The win, SSU’s first over BCC since 1992, snapped a 16-game losing streak to the Wildcats.
CLASSIC SPOTLIGHT: THE JOHN MERRITT CLASSIC
After suffering their first loss of the season last week, Tennessee State (3-1, 0-1 Ohio Valley Conference) will look to bounce back in Nashville as they host Eastern Illinois (2-2, 1-0 OVC) in the 19th annual John Merritt Classic at Nissan Stadium.
The JMC is usually the first game of the season, but this year’s game was moved due to the Tigers’ schedule, marking only the third time (and first since 2008) that the event will not open the season for TSU.
In their 31-16 loss to UT Martin, TSU fell behind 24-0 and were able to pull to within eight points with nine minutes to go in the third quarter. However, they were unable to score on either of its final four possessions, despite getting to the UTM 12-yard line with six minutes to go.
As for the Panthers, they snapped a two-game losing streak with a 19-16 victory over Southeast Missouri. In his first career start, redshirt freshman Scotty Gilkey Jr. passed for 142 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for a team-high 98 yards and a score. Isaiah Johnson added 77 rushing yards as the EIU team finished with a season-best 230 yards on the ground.
Tennessee State is 13-5 all-time in the JMC including a 44-0 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff last year. TSU and EIU have played 22 previous times, with the Panthers having won five in a row, including 35-34 a year ago when both teams were nationally-ranked. In that game, Devin Church scored on a four-yard reception with nine minutes to play to give EIU the lead for good.
The game, scheduled for a 6 p.m. CT kickoff, can be seen live on ESPN3.
HBCU NEWS AND NOTES
NSU BASEBALL COACH CLARK RESIGNS
Norfolk State University Director of Athletics Marty L. Miller announced on Thursday that head baseball coach Claudell Clark has resigned to pursue another career opportunity.
Clark, who served as NSU’s head coach for 13 years and also as assistant athletics director for external affairs the last two, has accepted a position as director of development for Norfolk Festevents. Miller also announced that assistant coach Keith Shumate has been selected to serve as interim head coach.
Clark compiled a 287-332-1 record as head coach of the Spartans and guided the Spartans to the first three MEAC Northern Division titles in school history from 2015 to 2017. In addition, Clark’s teams advanced to the MEAC Tournament championship round seven times in his tenure, including the last two years.
Three of Clark’s players were drafted by Major League Baseball programs, including two (pitchers Devin Hemmerich and Alex Mauricio) in the 2017 draft alone. His players won the last three MEAC Pitcher of the Year awards, while Mauricio became the school’s first-ever MEAC Player of the Year after this past season.
CIAA SET FOR 2017 BASKETBALL MEDIA DAY
The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) will kick off the 2017 women’s and men’s basketball season with its annual Basketball Media Day at the Renaissance Charlotte Suites Hotel, 2800 Coliseum Centre Drive, in Charlotte, North Carolina. The event is scheduled for Thursday, October 5 from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Each CIAA institution’s head men’s and women’s basketball coach will take the stage for discussion regarding their basketball programs, athletes, and season schedule as teams anticipate the conference championship tournament. This season’s circuit will feature extended sessions for Q&A dialog between head coaches and media followed by basketball tournament updates and announcements.
The 2017 Preseason Teams & Predicted Orders of Finish will be announced October 4 while 2017 CIAA regular season basketball play will open on Friday, November 10, 2017.
Southern defeated Mississippi Valley State 57-30 in the first Chicago Football Classic.