Put Up Or Shut Upby Craig R. Turner
Published: November 15, 2019
It was upset weekend in the MEAC last Saturday as a pair of 1-8 teams at the bottom of the conference rose up and knocked off the a pair of teams at the top of the race in a pair of stunners.
Morgan State made it two years in a row over N.C. A&T by thoroughly outplaying and out coaching the Aggies in a 22-16 victory in Baltimore. The Bears dominated on both sides of the ball getting a big game from senior quarterback Deandre Harris (14-20, 218 yds.) and wide out Manasseh Bailey (7 rec. 118, 1 TD) while A&T helped to contribute mightily to their own downfall by committing two key red zone turnovers and 13 momentum killing penalties for 87 yards.
Co-leader Bethune-Cookman couldn’t take advantage of that upset s they themselves fell victim to the overconfidence disease as they were ambushed by inspired Delaware State 16-13 up in Dover, Del. the Hornets rode to victory on the back of freshman running back Thomas Betrand-Hudon as he rushed for 133 yards and a touchdown on 36 carries.
The Hornets neutralized the combo of quarterback Akevious Williams and receiver Jimmie Robinson. The elusive Williams (14-28, 138 yds.) was held to just 46 yards rushing while the explosive Robinson had only 3 receptions for 17 yards and nine total yards in returns on the day.
South Carolina State got right back into the thick of the race with a resounding 62-21 rout of Howard on senior day down in Orangeburg. The Bulldogs were on fire behind the record setting performance from star red shirt freshman quarterback Corey Fields who went 18-29 for 333 yards and 7 , yeah count’em, 7 touchdowns.
Norfolk State sent a message that the Spartans have turned the corner on salvaging their season and most likely the future of coach Latrell Scott with a convincing 38-21 win over N.C. Central on the road. NCCU quarterback did throw for 384 yards and 3 touchdowns in losing effort on the Eagles homecoming.
This week one team will most likely be eliminated from the MEAC title hunt as Bethune-Cookman (6-3, 4-2) will work their way northward for a showdown with #25 N.C. A&T (6-3, 4-2) in a huge contest of co-leaders in Greensboro. Game time set for a 1:00 pm kickoff on ESPN 3.
In a game now gaining new attention, red hot Norfolk State (4-6, 3-3) will travel to Delaware State (2-8, 1-6) for a 2:00 p.m. kickoff on ESPN3.
S.C. State (6-3, 4-2) will need to keep both focus and pace in the three-way race to the top when they go up against N. C. Central (4-6, 3-3) in Durham at 2:00 p.m. on ESPN 3.
Morgan State (2-5, 2-8) will be aiming to continue their winning ways against unaffiliated Virginia-Lynchburg in a 1:00 p.m. game.
#14 Florida A&M (6-0, 8-1*) will be looking to tune up for the Florida Classic next week when they play host to Howard (1-5, 1-9) at 4:00 p.m. (ESPN3) in Tallahassee. (*ineligible due to NCAA sanctions)
Coach Terry Sims and his Bethune-Cookman Wildcats have been a consistent team for much of the 2019 season but they will be coming into Greensboro on Saturday afternoon in the midst of a two game losing streak facing the biggest challenge to date and a possible MEAC title riding on the outcome. BCU dropped a tough game at home to S.C. State and just like N.C. A&T did at Morgan State last week, suffered a hugely disappointing 16-13 loss to a 1-8 Delaware State team on the road.
The Wildcats will feature two of the most explosive players in the nation in quarterback Akevious Williams and wide receiver Jimmie Robinson. Williams (6-2,177, R-Sr.) has completed 53.7 % percent of passes for 1,386 yards and 9 TDs but it is his ability to make big plays with his legs in the RPO and when set plays break down that make him so incredibly hard to defend off the edge. He’s amassed 505 yards and 8 touchdowns on the ground.
Robinson (5-8, 175, Sr.) possesses blinding 4.3 sprinter’s speed. As a receiver Robinson has 32 catches for 419 yards and 4 TDs while producing 725 yards on 27 kick off returns for another score. He is not the only receiving threat that the Wildcats have at their disposal. Sophomore Marcus Riley (5-10, 170) is another fleet pass catcher with good speed.
The ground game is lead by Isaac Washington (5-10,190, So.) who is the second leading rusher with 505 yards and 4 TDs. The Cats have an experienced offensive line featuring
Cedric Jackson (6-3, 320, So.), Nick Roos (6-7, 315, Sr.), L’Dre Barnes (6-3, 305, Sr.) and big tight end Tayron Mallard (6-6, 250, Jr.)
Defensively, the Wildcats have historically been a defense that creates a lot of takeaways but they also have surrendered an uncharacteristic amount of yards on the ground this season (191 ypg.) and especially so in their last two outings (220.5 avg.).
Outside linebacker Marquis Hendrix (6-1,230, Sr.) is on the Buck Buchanan list and is the leading tackler and force in the front seven. Another standout defender along the line is Unatero Johnson (6-1, 240, MLB, Jr.) and Devin James ( 6-1,226, Jr.) is a big time pass rusher on the corner. Judas McKenzie (6-2,270, So.) and end Jamarquis Reeves (6-3,265, Jr.) are the linemen of note.
Bryce Coward handles the punting chores (33.3 ypp.) and Xavier McDonald is the place kicker hitting on 5-6 field goals with his season long being 39 yards.
The MEAC race has come down to the season’s final two weeks and A&T finds itself in an all too familiar situation where there can be absolutely no room for error. Win this week and play for a third consecutive championship the next against blood rival NC. Carolina Central at home. Lose and you can start making those plans with the family and decide on whose house you will spend the holidays.
Bethune-Cookman will be rolling into Greensboro loaded for bear having their first realistic shot at winning the MEAC in nearly four years. And while A&T’s loss to Morgan State left an sour taste in everyone’s mouth, BCU’s debacle up in Dover was probably even more disheartening given the Hornets’ talent level.
Either way neither of these teams are playing well coming into this game. The Wildcats have dropped two straight because of an offense that for some reason has become one-dimensional and a once dependable rush defense that has suddenly deserted them.
A&T’s fall last week can be directly attributed to the self inflicted wounds of countless drive killing penalties mixed in with a generous portion of turnovers and a lack of focus and intensity – over confidence if you will, players and coaches alike.
The Wildcats haven’t beaten Aggies since 2010 so the BCU team that the Aggies will play Saturday won’t give a flip about all that media hype and frankly are probably sick and tired hearing about everything being A&T.
The Aggies better stop reading social media on how good they are, how special they are and how they are everyone’s HBCU darlings. The Wildcats are going to try to punch A&T’s lights out and they have more than enough talent to do it with. Just like Morgan did a week ago.
If A&T comes out focused and stays on their assignments and execute the way they’ve shown that they are capable of, it certainly can punch its ticket to a championship game against NCCU in BB&T stadium next week. If not, then the Aggies will have only themselves to blame when they are watching the Celebration Bowl from the couch next month.
Nothing of any real worth is ever given. If you are willing to work your butt off everyday in order to get to the top then you better be prepared fight like hell if you plan on staying there.
Time now for true champions to man up.
N.C. A&T – 24
Bethune-Cookman – 22