The race for the big South championship is pretty much down to a couple of the usual suspects as both Kennesaw State and Monmouth, longtime conference kingpins, are the only unbeaten teams left in the league as the final November stretch begins.
Two-time defending champion Monmouth had last week off but Kennesaw State stayed right on pace by busting loose a punishing second half ground attack plus a couple of big plays off special teams to run away and hide from Campbell in a 30-7 victory on the road.
Offensively the Owls rolled up 258 yards rushing while quarterback Xavier Shepherd went 8-for-14 passing with 112 yards and two touchdowns. The sophomore also added 14 carries on the ground for 52 yards and one touchdown.
Hampton may have been out numbered in the stands on their home field but the Pirates won the battle that really counted by upending North Carolina A&T 30-9 to grab its first BSC win of the year.
The Pirate defense dominated a floundering A&T offense holding the Aggies to just 91 yards rushing and turning the Aggies over 3 times on the day.
The Pirate big play offense was red hot all day long with 441 yards in total offense with 285 and 2 TDs coming through the air on the arm of senior quarterback Jett Duffey.
After six straight losses to begin the season, North Alabama has seemingly found its “Mojo” and is now hitting on all cylinders as they beat up Charleston Southern 42-22 for their second straight win in a game that actually wasn’t all that close at all.
Quarterback Rett Files threw for 235 yards and three touchdowns, all going to wide receiver Takaire Kenebrew, and ran for another.
The UNA defense caused five turnovers and the Lions’ special teams blocked two kicks in the convincing rout.
Gardner-Webb, the most improved team in the conference, continues to make strides as the Bulldogs posted what would be considered a mild upset in a 28-17 homecoming win over Robert Morris.
Gardner-Webb staked itself a 21-0 halftime lead on the strength of a tenacious defense that racked up 6 sacks and forced 5 turnovers.
Because of those sacks, RMU managed just five yards rushing on the day and a meager 207 yards in total offense.
Week 9 will have some interesting match-ups set for this Saturday. Hampton (3-4, 1-2) will travel up to Robert Morris (2-4, 1-2) at high noon in the first game of the day.
A capacity crowd of some 21,000 plus are expected be in attendance at Truist Stadium in Greensboro as North Carolina A&T (3-4, 2-2) will be celebrating “The Greatest Homecoming On Earth” by taking on first place Monmouth (4-3, 3-0) at 1 pm.
Also 1:00 p.m. kickoffs will be in order as both Campbell (2-2, 2-4) and Charleston Southern (1-3, 2-4) are both looking to get back on the winning track.
Gardner-Webb (1-2, 3-4) will have the unenviable task of trying to do the impossible on the road against streaking Kennesaw State (6-1, 3-0).
12:00 PM Hampton @ Robert Morris ESPN3
1:00 PM Campbell @ Charleston Southern ESPN+
1:00 PM Gardner-Webb @ Kennesaw State ESPN+
1:00 PM Monmouth @ North Carolina A&T ESPN+
The Monmouth Hawks come into Greensboro this weekend as a heavy favorite to remain unbeaten in conference play and rightfully so. Monmouth has won the last two Big south Conference titles and was the preseason pick back on media day to win it’s third straight title.
The Hawks finished as the 10th ranked team in FCS with their only heartbreaking loss being to eventual national champion Sam Houston State in the first round of the FCS playoffs this past spring.
Coach Kevin Callahan (166-125) is the dean of coaches in the Big South as he closes in on completing his 29th season at the helm of the Monmouth football program. Callahan’s teams may be the best kept secret in the FCS in recent years as his teams have captured seven conference titles and three FCS playoff appearances during his tenure.
Although the Hawks have not been as dominant as they were in the spring outside of conference play, they certainly have lived up to their reputation inside the Big South outscoring opponents 129-48 through three games.
The offense has been extremely potent behind freshman sensation quarterback Tony Muskett (6-2,195) who has completed 149-235 passes for 1,514 yards and 14 touchdowns against just four interceptions on the year.
The Hawks are just loaded with game changers on the outside for Muskett to throw to with deep threat Lonnie Moore (5-10, 175, Gr., 47 catches, 456 yds.), Zach Tredway (6-3,180, GR., 23 catches, 219 yds.) and senior Terrence Greene (5-11,190, 26 catches, 336 yds.).
All-American running back Juwon Farri (5-10,190, R-Jr.) is the reigning BSC offensive player of the year and its easy to see why as he has rushed to 689 yards and eight touchdowns averaging 4.6 yards per carry and 98 yards per game.
The Hawks offensive line is one of the best in the nation lead by grad student Charles James (6-5, 315), Greg Anderson (6-5,325, Jr.) , Manny Christian (6-5,320, GR.) and Brian Syracuse (6-4, 315, Gr.).
The Hawk defense hasn’t been quite as consistent as the offense but they are still well stocked with their ability to apply pressure and to create a lot of turnovers. The key to success on defense is anchored around a good amount of grad student players and seasoned veterans sprinkled throughout their lineup.
Dominick Spano (6-3, 290, Sr.), Dayvion Johnson (6-3,315, Jr.), Nick Shoemaker (6-2, 280, Sr.) and Kahari Scarlett (6-3, 255, Gr.) should get the start along the defensive front as they have for most of the season.
Linebackers Ray Moran (6-2, 225, Jr.) , Tyler Delgado (5-10, 215, Jr.) Eddie Hahn (6-3,225, Gr.) and Erik Massey 6-2, 240, Gr.) will hold down the middle.
The Hawks secondary has shown to be an aggressive group on film and that has been a attribute as well as sometimes a curse sometimes because of some gambles taken in press coverage. Anthony Budd (5-10, 200, R-Sr.) is the teams leading tackler with 48 stops followed by Tyrese Wright (6-0, 215, Jr.) with 42 tackles, cornerbacks Eddie Morales (5-9,175,Sr.) and Mike Reid (6-2,190, So.).
Its GHOE time at A&T which means thousands of A&T alums from all over the country are making their yearly trek back to East Greensboro for the biggest holiday weekend of the year just outside of Christmas.
Even in the midst of the country still emerging out of the darkness of the Covid pandemic that started more than 18-months ago, some 20,000 plus of the Aggie faithful are expected be in attendance this Saturday at Truist Stadium (still Aggie Stadium for most of us old heads).
A&T, more than likely, wont be playing for any championships or at-large playoff bids in this their first year of playing football as a member of the Big South Conference. That fact been a hard bitter pill for most hardcore A&T fans to swallow and the team’s recent performance hasn’t done much for the coaching staff in the way ingratiating themselves to the grumbling masses around your local grocery stores, barbershops, beauty salons or social media platforms.
Still, in the midst of a disappointing season that no one could or would have anticipated back in August, postseason gone by the wayside, there’s still a lot for this team to play for.
Champions aren’t just defined by the trophy count on display in cases along the hallways in and around the athletic facilities. It’s easy to stick out your chest when things are going good, the ball is bouncing your way and everyone is slapping you on the back and telling you how great you are. That doesn’t take any effort.
The true measure of a true champion comes to the forefront when adversity strikes. Like a boxer who suddenly gets put on his back from a punch out of nowhere after coasting through the early rounds. He’s been dazed, he’s been bloodied, he can’t seem to fend off those stinging jabs from a unfamiliar opponent as he simply hangs on just trying to make it to the end of the round.
The injury situation for A&T has seemingly gotten to the point that this team looks more like a M.A.S.H. unit rather than a football team. I could be off but I don’t believe the defense has had the same starting lineup two weeks in a row this entire season. The offense seems to be stuck on idle and both the point totals and rushing production are heading in the same direction – a death spiral if you will.
That’s pretty much the situation that the Aggies are facing this week. A&T has been kicked around pretty good this season but especially so last week. Can the Aggies pick themselves off the canvas and get back to delivering blows after being the punching bag for the last couple of weeks? They can but it won’t easy.
There was a players meeting called earlier this week so they know they are up against it.
That normally signals a good thing in that there has been a recognition that a sense of urgency is called for- not only from the players but the coaching staff as well. The thing is though those kind of meetings only become meaningful if everyone follows through on their part to actually make good things happen.
If there is at least one game on the schedule that is an absolute must show up moment on a A&T football schedule other than NCCU, it’s Homecoming. It’s time for this team to show that Aggie Pride is not just another catchy cool slogan but that it actually means what it says it means.
If you can’t get up for this game, this week and go out and play with a “balls to the wall” football then………well then, you know the rest.
Monmouth – 27
N.C. A&T – 23