A Dozen Will Do

by Craig R. Turner
Published: December 17, 2017

After a month long wait, N. C. A&T will suit up for the biggest game of the season as it goes after its second Black college National Championship in three years when they do battle this Saturday with Grambling in the Air Force Celebration Bowl at the Mercedes Benz Dome in Atlanta, Ga.

The unbeaten and seventh ranked Aggies have had almost a 4 week layoff with a chance to rest, get some people back from injury, study for exams, and to relax a bit from the grind before preparing for the Tigers. Grambling hung on against a game Alcorn team to win the SWAC championship over a couple of weeks back and have had only one week off.

I would imagine that ESPN will build up the hype of this match-up because Rod Broadway coached at Grambling for four very successful years before leaving in 2011 for Greensboro and building A&T into a FCS Top 15 program. There were a few ruffled feathers and bruised egos at Grambling over abrupt Broadway’s departure right after national signing day back then after turning down the job just three weeks earlier.

However, A&T Chancellor Harold Martin and Athletic Director Earl Hilton refused to take no for an answer, and after additional negotiations and a commitment to building a new athletic infrastructure, they finally persuaded Broadway to make the move north and the rest of story is now history.
Broadway’s record 55-27 at A&T has places second for the most wins at the school behind Bill Hayes and he is now tops in winning percentage (74.5%) all time. His all overall record mark as a head coach is an impressive 145-25 (68.9%).

Grambling won the Celebration Bowl last year eking out an 11-10 win over N.C. Central. This will be the first meeting between Broadway and Grambling coach Broderick Fobbs who essentially replaced Broadway after a one year stop gap by Doug Williams in 2011. Fobbs’ father and current Grambling running back coach, Lee, was A&T’s head coach during the worst period in A&T football history (2006-2008) which saw A&T lose 27 consecutive games in one 3-year stretch.

While much of this past history has been played by both men, nay fans on both have been quick to point to this game as a chance to settle some old scores. There’s really no need to use any of that as motivation as these two teams have been clearly at the top of the pecking order in Black College Football and that a postseason meeting this year was inevitable.

There is a lot at stake in this game with A&T seeking to become the first MEAC team in history to ever go an entire season wire to wire unbeaten while Grambling is seeking to become the first team to win back to back Celebration Bowls.

ESPN Gameday at the Celebration Bowl begins at 9 am this Saturday morning while kickoff follows for 12 noon nationwide on ABC.


It’s been a busy and very hectic week with two new coaches joining the MEAC ranks while a third transitioning quickly after an unexpected change took place. The biggest news story of the week was that N.C. Central Head coach Jerry Mack called it quits with the Eagles to join up his former boss Jim Bloomgren, who recently got the head job at Rice, as his new offensive coordinator. Obviously Mack is making the major career move that will put him on a much larger and far more visible stage with the Big 12 Conference member.

Defensive coordinator Granville Eastman was quickly named interim head coach for the Eagles as the recruiting season will go into hyper drive immediately following the Christmas holidays. Expect Eastman to have the interim title soon lifted and be officially given the job before NCCU begins spring practice in March.

FAMU wasted no time in enticing Willie Simmons away from Prairie View A&M to become their new head coach replacing Alex Wood who was let go last month. The Rattlers are seeking to duplicate the same kind of success that NCCU experienced four years ago with the hiring of Mack by getting a young and aggressive coach and recruiter with deep Florida roots.

Simmons, a Clemson alum, began his career as a high school coach in Tallahassee and spent time as a position coach and as offensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee State, ten at Alcorn State under Dave Hopson before becoming the head man at Prairie View in 2015 where he compiled a 20-11 record.

Hampton University will have new head coach Robert Prunty navigating its last year of competition in the MEAC as they transition out to their new digs in the Big South starting in the fall of 2019. Prunty is a 1983 Hampton alum and served as defensive position coach at Texas Tech, Cincinnati, and most recently as associate head coach and defensive coordinator for East Carolina University.

Delaware State remains relatively silent as they search for not only a new football coach but an athletic Director as well.

South Carolina State’s administration and board of trustees will soon be voting on its athletic future within the next few weeks on whether to continue in Division One or follow the lead of Savannah State and drop down to D-2 because of the severe economic crisis that the institution is attempting to recover from.

It’s been a pretty much open secret that if SCSU does decides to drop down then then Coach Buddy Pough will most likely step down and ride off into the sunset rather than heading up a downsized program. By the same token, if the Bulldogs elect to stay the course in Division One then the administration will most likely do so without Pough at the helm.

Either way you cut it, Pough comes out on the short end in both scenarios and will probably be coaching his last season at S.C. State next fall. Should SCSU withdraw from the conference, which now seems very plausible, it will leave the MEAC with 7 FCS football teams and nine D-1 basketball programs.

The exit of SCSU would be a big initial shock to the MEAC system and would open up a lot of uncertainty about the future of the remaining individual members. However, it would not necessarily trigger a rush for expansion. If you stop and think about it, downsizing with one less financial liability would give the surviving football schools a lot more power and options in determining just how those core institutions would operate, how it could restructure themselves both internally and externally as a conference and they how it could target market with precision under a new and more streamlined conference realignment. The upcoming vote in Orangeburg will be on everyone’s radar come the first of the year.


The 2017 Celebration Bowl will be a true showdown between the two best HBCU football programs that we’ve seen in a very long time. A&T is ranked 7th in all the FCS after running through opponents in route to a spotless 11-0 regular season record and being one of only two undefeated team in the FCS and one of only 3 in all of college football.

Likewise Grambling was not really challenged during the regular season with the only blemish on their record coming at the hands of Tulane in the season opener. The “G-Men” have dominated the SWAC winning 31 straight over conference opponents.

The Tigers play a wide open offense that likes to spread the field and create one-on-one matchups to maximize the playmaking ability of senior star quarterback Devante Kincaid (6-0,190), the SWAC offensive player of the year. The former Mississippi transfer has thrown for 2,680 yards and 21 touchdowns this season against just 3 interceptions. But what makes him so dangerous is his legs and his ability to get out of jams with his quickness and then make big plays in a scramble situation to the outside.

If Kincaid is the drink, then senior running back Martez Carter (5-9,215) is the straw that does the stirring. Carter is a multi-talented back who is a top notch pass receiver with the ability to make people miss in space and is deceptively quick through the hole. The Monroe, La. Product had a strong year rushing for 842 yards (5.2 ypc) and 10 touchdowns while grabbing 30 catches for 402 yds.

The Tigers lost two NFL bound receivers from a year ago but Kincaid has been able to spread the ball over a long list of receivers headed by the trio of receivers in Darrel Clark (6-0,180), Quinton Guise (6-1,190), and speedy Calief Samon (5-10,155).

None of the young Tiger offensive linemen made the all-conference team but it is an effective group led by senior Trenton Scott (6-5,320) and junior Darrel Brown (6-2325). Tight end Jordan Jones (6-2,260) is an all-SWAC pick who is known more for his blocking rather than running pass routes.

Defensively the G-Men led in the nation in turnover margin with a +21 in turnovers. They will operate out of a 3-4 alignment which puts a lot of the spotlight on three big playmakers in sack Leader La’Alln Clark (6-2,240,Jr., 9 sacks), DeArius Christmas (5-10,220,Jr.) and De’Andre Hogues (6-2,215). They will be sporting two All-SWAC picks in their secondary with corners De’Aumante Johnson (5-9,175, Sr.) and Ja’Terious Pouncy (5-10,180, Sr.). Grambling’s kicking game is in excellent hands in All-SWAC performer Marc Orozco handling the field goal and PAT chores.


Grambling will look to get Kincaid out on the edges as often as possible so they can utilize various screens, delays and wheel routes designed to get the ball to Carter in space. Kincaid will not hesitate in the least to take off if there is no defensive pressure is being applied. A&T will need to force the ball out of his hands early into the play to limit his effectiveness. The longer Kincaid holds on to the ball the more dangerous he becomes.

The Tiger defense is will give A&T’s offense a lot of different looks, stunts, and blitz packages out of their 3-4 alignment in hopes of confusing quarterback Lamar Raynard and to get penetration up the field to take away A&T’s running game. Gap control will be essential for Grambling against A&T’s offense which prefers to go straight at defenses with brute force when there is a size disparity in their favor.

This game will be a contrast in styles. The “X-Box” wide open attack of Grambling that will look to hit the big play at every opportunity versus the deliberate, physical grinding which is A&T’s trademark. There is great skill talent on both sides of this contest with both teams having outstanding quarterbacks, running backs, and game changers in the passing game.

Where the outcome of this game will be determined will be up front and that is where the differences begin to show themselves. A&T’s interior line play has been outstanding all year long. And while Grambling is a speed based defense, the A&T offensive front is a veteran group that will be far more physical than what the Tigers are accustomed to seeing from their SWAC brethren. The Aggie defense has been dominating over the entire season and if they stay disciplined with their assignments when Kincaid scrambles and account for Carter in the short passing game.

Since both teams preach ball security, don’t expect either team to beat themselves. The battle along the line of scrimmage is where this one be most likely be determined. That and perhaps a play or two on special teams will make the difference as A&T finally reaches the apex at the end of its journey on the road to perfection.



N. C. A&T – 34

Grambling – 24