Halfway Home

by Craig R. Turner
Published: October 11, 2019

MEAC teams have reached the midway point of the season and things are beginning to setup for a rambunctious month of October all of the early conference leaders. There weren’t any upsets this past week but there were some surprise results nevertheless.

Florida A&M pulled out some heart stopping last second heroics this time against N.C. Central for a 28-21 homecoming win before a less than capacity crowd in Tallahassee. QB Ryan Stanley hit star receiver Xavier Smith on a 2-yard TD pass with just 32 seconds left to pull out the victory over the young Eagles.

S.C. State came off a two week layoff and although never in real trouble looked the part of being a little rusty in knocking off Delaware State on the road 38-24. Junior QB Tyrece Nicks had a monster game for the Bulldogs throwing for a career high 253 yards and five touchdowns while rushing for 105 yards more to grab MEAC honors as offensive player of the week.

North Carolina A&T’s offense put Norfolk State out of its misery in very short fashion exploding with a huge 30-point second quarter and sent a demonstrative message from the 2-time defending champions to the rest of the MEAC in blasting the Spartans 58-19 in Norfolk. The 13th ranked Aggies ran up 594 yards in total offense with 410 of those coming on the ground. The A&T quick strike offense was unstoppable with four 1-play scoring drives of 26, 67, and two more of 68 yards apiece.

Bethune-Cookman’s Akevious Williams threw for three touchdowns, all of which found wide receiver Jimmie Robinson as the Wildcats pulled away from pesky Morgan State in the third quarter to win 31-20 and remain unbeaten in conference play. The dynamic duo connected on scoring plays of 44, 70, and six yards and along with the rest of the Wildcat offense accounted for 430 yards on the day.

After a week full of controversy and parent/player accusations within its football program, Howard University traveled up the coast to Cambridge, Mass. for a historic first ever meeting with Ivy League Harvard. It was pretty much forgettable one as far as the Bison were concerned as they were thoroughly routed in every way imaginable 62-17 by the Crimson.

This weekend there will be one huge match-up that will grabbing nearly all the attention from both fans and media alike. Orangeburg, SC will be the scene for the first real meeting between a set of top tier teams this year when the Florida A&M Rattlers (4-1, 2-0) travel to the S.C. State Bulldogs (3-1,1-0) in a midseason battle of conference unbeatens. Game time is set for 2 p.m. (ESPN3).

The other big game of the week to keep a real close eye on will be on Thursday Night in Durham as ever improving N.C. Central (2-4, 1-1) will welcome red hot Bethune-Cookman (4-1, 2-0) at 6:00 p.m. on ESPNU before a nationwide audience.

Both Norfolk State (1-5, 0-2) and Howard (1-5, 1-1) will hope to rebound after suffering humiliating defeats a week ago as it will be homecoming weekend in Washington, DC for the Bison. Kick off is 1:00 p.m. on ESPN3.

Morgan State (0-5, 0-2) will be celebrating its homecoming as well up in Baltimore this weekend as it will entertain Delaware State (1-4, 0-3) as one team will climb out of the MEAC cellar with a victory. Start time is 1:00 p.m. on ESPN3.

N.C. A&T will quietly enjoy their second bye week of the year as they prepare for their next big test in two weeks on the road at FAMU.

This week some of our readers asked me to give a mid-term grade, a position report card of sorts, now that we have hit the midway point in the 2019 season. I respectfully declined and here’s my reasoning.

I don’t care for the traditional report card type report because those kinds of reports almost always cherry picks opinions based primarily around individual performances lumped into stand alone pieces. Those kind of generalizations rarely if ever take into account the performance of an entire offense or defense in its entirety.

Fans probably need to focus in on what the identity of this year’s team is because every team, no matter how many starters who may have lost or how you may have coming back, every team will be different from the one came before it.

The two things that jumps out at me now that we are five games into the season is this team has shown both a quiet confidence and a seething ferocity that has served them well thus far. They’ve have plenty of toughness, they’ve answered a gut check, have shown the ability to bounce back from adversity and they are just now discovering just how much capability they have at their disposal and just how good they can be.

The maturation of this ball club has come along much faster than probably anyone anticipated with so many new additions and pieces, the most in four years. The last two weeks the Aggies have been not just good but down right dominating. The defense has been suffocating while the offense has been gradually picking up the pace with a devastating ground game and a highly efficient passing attack.

A&T is getting a better each week on both sides of the ball which would indicate that what Sam Washington and his coaching staff has been teaching in practice is being well absorbed and translated into solid performances on the field by the players.

Now the real heavy lifting takes place over the next four weeks with big roads trips to Tallahassee, Orangeburg, and Baltimore with only one game at home with Howard during this month. The good news here is that A&T has been very good on the road. Exceptionally good going 16-0 on the road against FCS competition since November of 2016.

There’s a long way still left to go and more improvement to be made but right now no one in the MEAC is playing more consistently or finishing games like A&T and that is exactly where you want your football team to be going forward into the most difficult stretch of the season.

Enjoy your weekend.