There are still a couple of unbeatens teams left in conference play in the MEAC but only one of those really counts toward anything while the other looks good from a cosmetic point of view only because of NCAA violations.
Bethune-Cookman stands alone for the moment at the top of the MEAC after posting a hard fought 35-22 win over Norfolk State in a game that wasn’t decided until well into the fourth quarter. Once again it was the big play response from junior QB Akevious Williams that really spelled the difference as he accounted for three touchdowns, 2 through the air on 24-36 passing for 274 yards and another on the ground with a 3-yard scoring run.
Florida A&M and N.C. A&T battled each other to the bitter end, both on and off the field, in a see saw affair before the Rattlers pulled off a 34-31 upset over the Aggies when backup QB Rasean McKay found Marcus Williams on a 22-yard diving catch in the end zone in overtime. The Aggies won in nearly every other statistical category out gaining the Rattlers 496-345 (316 passing, 180 yards rushing) in total offense and time of possession by nearly 20 minutes.
South Carolina State celebrated an abbreviated homecoming because of a tropical storm that hit the Orangeburg Area. The heavy rain didn’t dampen the Bulldogs spirit as they pulled away from stubborn Morgan State 24-10 in game played early Saturday morning. SCSU went with red shirt freshman QB Corey fields in his first ever start and he delivered a 12-23, 135-yards, and two touchdown performance in his debut. Morgan turned the ball over five times and was held to -5 yards rushing on the day.
In the final non conference tilt of the year Merrimack of the Northeast conference rode into Dover and continued the pain for Delaware State thumping the Hornets with a big third quarter to win 30-21. It was DSU’s fifth straight loss as they fell to 1-6.
This week it will be homecoming in a couple of different locations. Bethune-Cookman (6-1, 4-0) will need to be on their toes for S.C. State (4-2, 2-1), who is very much in the title race, as it will be looking to spoil the Wildcats homecoming weekend. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. on ESPN3 down in Daytona Beach.
Howard (1-6, 1-3) has the unenviable task of venturing down to Greensboro to deal with a very angry #18 ranked N.C. A&T (4-2, 2-1) squad which will be playing before a sellout homecoming crowd and at home for the first time in month. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. on ESPN3.
#23 Florida A&M (6-1, 4-0), ineligible for the MEAC crown or postseason play because of various NCAA violations, will travel up to Baltimore to play Morgan State (1-6, 1-3) at 3 p.m. the Rattlers will most likely be without record setting QB Ryan Stanley who is dealing with a shoulder injury on his throwing arm suffered last week in the win over A&T.
N.C. Central (2-5, 1-2) returns to action after a bye week and will host floundering Delaware State (1-6, 0-4) at @ p.m. on ESPN3.
When Howard University named Ron Prince as head coach to replace Mike London when London bolted for William Mary in the off season, they probably thought the FBS background would be a natural fit to continue the resurgence that the Bison had seen over the two previous years.
Picked in the preseason to seriously challenge the conference leaders, Howard entered the year with high hopes with a high powered offense fueled by All-American quarterback Caylin Newton.
But as quickly as the cool October air overtook the late summer temps of September, a sudden shock told hold of the system and literally in a matter of days the Bison went from contenders to pretenders. Newton, along with four other key players suddenly decided their athletic futures would best be served someplace other than Washington, DC and announced they were entering the transfer portal just three games into the season back in mid September.
On top of that stunning development, public charges of mistreatment of student athletes were also levied against Prince by parents of some of the players. It also became known that other players had complained about Prince and had left the team in the days leading up to the public pronouncement of Newton’s departure.
Howard’s administration quickly stated in public release at the time that they would conduct a through investigation of the allegations but there has been very little information in the interim on how that effort has progressed.
In the meantime, Howard has put together decent effort on the field against its opponents but it soon became clear they are suffering mightily, particularly in the second half of games without those key cogs in their lineup. The Bison are playing with a lot of inexperience and lack size or depth up front.
Those discrepancies are most glaring on defense and in the kicking game than any place else. The Bison are going up a FCS worst 47.3 point per game while allowing an average of 476 yards of total offense each outing with 252 of those coming on the ground. The red zone defense has been miserable at best with a 87.9 failure rate at keeping people out of end zone.
The one bright spot for Howard has been a young secondary that has gotten better despite the onslaught. Defensive backs Rodney Dennard (6-1, 180, So.) and Ray Williams (5-10, 183, Fr. ) are two of the leading tacklers. Up front the best pass rusher is sophomore end Zamon Robinson (6-4,225) and while the best run stoppers are Saveon Dickens (6-3,265) and James Newell (6-1, 270).
Stepping into the starting quarterback spot has been true freshman Quinton Williams (6-4, 178). Williams has been more than adequate despite his youth . He has sported a strong arm and good instincts and has been accurate hitting on 65-127 passes for 577 yards and three touchdowns.
Williams has a very dependable All-MEAC receiver in NFL prospect Kyle Anthony (6-3, 205, Sr., 4.5) who has taken over as the big play threat in the passing attack having caught 42 passes for 556 yards and four touchdowns.
One big reason the freshman signal caller has been successful is that he has a solid running back in sophomore Derrick Parsons (5-8,195), a shifty power runner that is both elusive and quick to get to the second level. Parsons has gained 453 yards (2 TDs) on the year behind an offensive line that has struggled at times in establishing consistency along the line of scrimmage.
The names to remember along that line are Bobby Teaham (6-2, 255, So.), Jayleen Williams (6-3,350, So.) , and Anim Dakwah (6-8, 335, Fr.).
The Bison offense has been missing not only Newton but also All-America wide receiver Jequez Ezzard who has missed all of this season as well with an undisclosed injury. Still Howard has shown when they can give Williams adequate time and can get Parsons involved immediately into the offensive flow they can score points and stay in a ball game.
Now whether the Young Bison can do that against a team of A&T’s caliber in any large measure will be the challenge question of the day.
It will be homecoming at 1601 East Market Street this weekend and this year it has been estimated by the Greensboro Convention Center that 100,000 people will converge on the Gate City for a GHOE weekend of incredible camaraderie, food, fun, entertainment and tons of night life.
I won’t go into the events in and around the FAMU game of a week ago. It’s been bitterly argued back and forth, psychoanalyzed, held up for ridicule by some and praised by others. Frankly I tired of it and I just want the Aggies to play the next game and get on with the task of capturing third straight MEAC championship and Celebration Bowl berth. A&T controls its on destiny. FAMU doesn’t really have one.
Playing Howard this week is going to be either super hard because the mind of this team might still be stuck on all the shenanigans that took place in Tallahassee or they could be so ticked off that a total apocalypse may be unleashed on a very young Howard team that is just trying to survive their youth not to mention all of highly publicized off the field problems.
If anything good came out of the loss at FAMU is that this team showed it’s pretty dog tough minded given all the bizarro world antics they had to deal with last Sunday. The short week didn’t give them much time to dwell on second guessing and the atmosphere surrounding homecoming usually gets those young minds to change gears rather quickly. Us old timers, not so much. Re-hashing is something us current and soon-to-be gray haired types do with great zeal and with plenty of expertise.
I have a feeling that once the Aggies step out of the locker room and see those 27,000 plus blue and gold clad fans come to their feet, the BGMM blasting “Smash Something”, and the deafening crescendo of “Aggie Pride” reverberating through a jammed BB&T Stadium, the bad events of the week before will instantaneously become a distant memory.
Ya’ll enjoy homecoming and behave yourselves. You know who you are.
N.C. A&T – 48
Howard – 16