The HBCU sports season is officially on, and as host of the national sports talk radio show, From the Press Box to Press Row, I cover all the action on the games that showcase our Historically Black Colleges and Universities. HBCU GameTime will provide a weekly rundown on what’s happening on the field, and occasionally other sports-related topics. Let’s play!
Three weeks in and it has been an interesting HBCU football season to this point.
A lot has been made about Savannah State and its back-to-back shellacking at the hands of nationally ranked Oklahoma State – 84-0 – and Florida State – 56-0. Savannah State’s program is only in its second year in the MEAC and I think it was a bit ambitious for the Tigers to play two nationally ranked teams, unlike for instance Florida A&M, a more established program with one of the most respected coaches in all of college football in Joe Taylor, who played Oklahoma this past Saturday and lost 69-13.
Wait did you say Savannah State received a total of $860,000? No injuries in the two games? Its total athletic budget is $5.1 million?
Get your money.
This happens all the time in college athletics, particularly in football and basketball. Bigger schools bring smaller schools in, knowing they will reap the benefits of a win and all the revenue that a home game generates, from concessions and merchandise sales for example.
Until an Appalachian State defeats Michigan.
But, I digress.
There were nine teams that were goose-egged last week. (Click here to view week three HBCU football scores.) This week should be much more competitive as teams begin to get into conference play.
Boxtorow National Game of the Week: Winston-Salem State (2-0) vs. Morehouse (1-1)
This is the game we would have loved to see last year, and the matchup between Winston-Salem State running back Nic Cooper who led all HBCU running backs with 1,808 yards and Morehouse running back David Carter who led all HBCU running backs in rushing yards per game (149.5).
The matchup is still intriguing. The defending Boxtorow HBCU national champion Rams are off to a 2-0 start. They are however not rolling over opponents like they did last year. Attribute part of that to the tough opponents the Rams played, and neither side of the ball is as sharp as it was last year.
Offensively, the Rams are still solid with preseason Boxtorow All-American quarterback Kameron Smith who is completing 59 percent of his passes, averaging 210 yards per game and has thrown three touchdowns to one interception. There has been some loss in the production of the running game with the loss of Cooper. Maurice Lewis however is averaging 122 yards, 4.7 yards per rush and has scored three touchdowns.
The Rams defense has taken a major hit with the departure of CIAA Defensive Player of the Year Alton Keaton and All-CIAA defensive end Akeem Ward. Last year the Rams defense led the CIAA in scoring defense (16.0) and was second in total defense (282.7). This year the Rams are giving up 328.5 yards and 22.5 points per game.
The Rams have succeeded in rushing defense and that success will be important in Saturday’s game. In two games, they have given up just 107 yards rushing. They will need that kind of effort against the vaunted Maroon Tigers rushing attack. Defensive back Malcolm Rowe and Linebacker Carlos Fields have combined for 27 tackles.
The Maroon Tigers are led by perhaps the best back in HBCU football in David Carter. Carter rushed for 108 yards and three touchdowns in the 39-18 victory over Edward Waters on Saturday en route to being named the Boxtorow National Player of the Week. In the game he also set the career rushing record for most yards in a season formerly held by John David Washington, son of Denzel Washington. Carter has been a workhorse in the two games this season, carrying the ball 36 times against Edward Waters and 34 times against Howard. Howard limited him to 3.6 yards per carry (121 yards rushing).
Junior Shelton Hamilton is more than capable of toting the pill as well, having himself rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns in two games, including 113 yards against Edward Waters.
Because of the wet conditions, Maroon Tiger quarterback Donnay Ragland only threw the ball six times against Edward Waters. In the loss to Howard, Ragland was solid completing 15-of-26 passes for 254 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He distributes the ball well as eight receivers have caught at least one pass this season.
Defensively, Morehouse must shore up its run defense as Edward Waters ran for 283 yards. They will need to contain Smith, not only in the air but on the ground as well. Linebacker Brandon Houston (17 tackles, 13 solo, 3.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks) leads the defense.
The game is the Cleveland Classic and will be played at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Other games to watch:
Alabama State (1-1) vs. Grambling State (0-2)
The Grambling State Tigers are off to another slow start. Last year the Tigers started the season 1-4, before reeling off eight straight wins on their way to the SWAC Championship, their fourth during the second tenure of head coach Doug Williams. They faced nationally ranked TCU on Saturday and lost 56-0. It’s hard to measure expectations against ASU, coming off a loss against a nationally ranked Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team. Go back two weeks to the Alcorn State game where the Tigers lost 22-21 and the Tigers rushed for 356 yards, led by Jeremy Runner (256) and preseason All-American Dawrence Roberts (121). Williams’ son D.J. has gotten off to a bit of a slow start numbers-wise, but has all the tools to excel. The Tigers will have to get better against the run as in two games they are giving up 248.5 yards per game. Alcorn State rushed for 224 yards. ASU rebounded nicely from week one’s 38-28 loss to Alabama State with a 29-7 victory over Mississippi Valley State. Georgia transfer running back Isaiah Crowell has not provided the rushing punch the Hornets were hoping for to this point. While quarterback Greg Jenkins hasn’t been as productive passing the ball (completed 32-of-50 passes for 326 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions), he leads the Hornets with 111 yards rushing and four touchdowns. Defensively the Hornets have been bad against the run, giving up 561 yards in the two games. The Hornets pass defense settled down and only allowed 48 yards passing against Mississippi Valley State. All-American free safety Kejuan Riley picked off a pass against MVSU and set the school record with interceptions in a career (18).
Hampton (0-2) vs. Florida A&M (0-2)
Typically an early season matchup between two 0-2 teams wouldn’t be a game to watch. With Bethune-Cookman defeating South Carolina State last week, the Wildcats, along with defending MEAC champion Norfolk State are the frontrunners for the MEAC crown. Fortunately for the both Hampton and Florida A&M this will be both teams’ first conference game. The team that loses, even with plenty of season left, will have a hard time winning the conference championship. Hampton hasn’t shown much in the first two games losing by a combined 86-38. The Rattlers and head coach Joe Taylor still believe they were robbed of a win against Tennessee State two weeks ago. They have photos that show quarterback Damian Fleming crossed the goal line twice on third and fourth and goal. Taylor was head coach at Hampton for 16 years and while he says he has moved on from the emotions of playing against his former team, you know he wants to win badly. He is 2-2 against the Pirates since coming to FAMU in 2008.
Click here for this week’s full slate of games.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Morehouse RB David Carter
5-11, 225, Sr., Marietta, Ga.
Carter is now the all-time leading rusher in Maroon Tigers history after carrying the ball 36 times for 208 yards and 3 TDs in Morehouse’s 39-18 victory over Edward Waters.
Norfolk State RB Brendon Riddick
5-11, 210, R-Fr., Richmond, Va.
Carried the ball 21 times for 150 yards and 3 TDs in the Spartans 31-24 victory over Liberty.