What’cha Gonna Do?
By Craig R. Turner
Published: October 22, 2021

Last week was separation time in the Big South among the conference unbeatens and the two major players from a year ago, Kennesaw State and Monmouth, both proved that they aren’t quite ready to relinquish control to the league’s new upstarts.

Defending champion Monmouth broke open a tight game on the road against Campbell with a big second quarter surge as the Hawks easily dispatched the Camels 34-17.

Quarterback Tony Muskett had another big day throwing for 286 yards and three touchdowns while running back Juwon Farri rushed for 111 yards and one score. Wide outs Lonnie Moore and Terrance Greene decimated the Campbell secondary with 115 and 104 yards respectively.

Kennesaw State completely shut down North Carolina A&T’s high scoring offense and despite four turnovers, executed it’s own triple option offense with just enough consistency on two drives to grind out a tough 14-0 victory over the Aggies before a record KSU homecoming crowd.

The Owls swarming defense was all the difference as it allowed just 31 yards rushing and kept the rest of the Aggie attack at bay all afternoon holding A&T scoreless for the first time in 9 years.

North Alabama jumped out to a 35-7 first half lead on its way to the Lions first win of the year, a 42-31 victory over Robert Morris in Florence, Ala. UNA had its best offensive showing of the season rolling up 466 yards in total offense, rushing for 204 and passing for 262.

Red shirt freshman running back Parker Driggers rushed for 145 on 12 carries and had 255 all-purpose yards. Quarterback Rett Files was 20-for-30 for 262 yards and two touchdowns in the winning effort.

Charleston Southern unleashed its “Air Raid” offense on Hampton Pirates and amassed a mountain of big plays for a lifetime of highlight reels in its dominating 35-3 win over the Pirates.

Quarterback Jack Chambers had another huge player of the year type performance. Hitting on 25-of-43 passes for 357 yards, the senior signal caller equaled his career high with four touchdowns from earlier this year against the Citadel.

This week some old foes that haven’t seen each other in a while will meet up at 2 p.m. as North Carolina A&T (3-3, 2-1) comes calling at Hampton (2-4, 0-2). The two teams haven’t played each other since they were both members of the MEAC back in 2016.

Robert Morris (2-3,1-1) is seeking to keep pace in the conference race and will entertain Gardner-Webb (2-3, 1-1) in the early contest at 1:30 p.m.

North Alabama (1-6, 0-2) will be looking to extend their winning streak to two in a row as they host explosive Charleston Southern (1-2, 2-3) for a 3 p.m. kickoff.

Kennesaw State will try to avoid a letdown after its big win last week as the Owls travel up to North Carolina for a second straight week to take on always dangerous Campbell (2-1, 3-3) in the late game at 4 p.m.

Monmouth will have the week off with a midseason bye.

The Big South TV Schedule For 10/23/21

1:30 PM Robert Morris @ Gardner-Webb ESPN+
2:00 PM North Carolina A&T @ Hampton ESPN+
3:00 PM Charleston Southern @ North Alabama ESPN3
4:00 PM Kennesaw State @ Campbell ESPN+

When Hampton made the move to leave the MEAC for the Big South Conference in late 2017, it raised a lot of eyebrows and opinions in the traditional HBCU ranks.

Longtime Hampton President William Harvey state hat the university’s interest could be better served athletically, financially and academically by moving to a more regionalized affiliation.

With that, Harvey decided to part ways with Connell Maynor and decided to enlist the services Hampton alum Robert Prunty. Prunty as the new head coach in a first step to restructure their football program in their new surroundings.

Prunty has a long resume on both the FBS and FCS level with notable stops at East Carolina and Cincinnati as both defensive coordinator and associate head coach as well as a stint at Texas Tech.

He took over the Pirate program in 2018 going 7-5 as a FCS independent and then in the fall of 2019 led Hampton’s initial foray into the Big South as a full fledged members and guided the Pirates to a 5-7 (1-5 BSC) record.

Hampton University is in the midst of a rebuilding process sporting a talented young team that has shown promise but has not quite yet jelled as far as consistency is concerned especially on the defensive side of the ball.

The Pirates will start anywhere from 7-10 red shirt freshmen or sophomores in their defensive lineup. The statistical data proves that the youth movement still has a ways to go as opponents have been averaging over 450 yards in total offense against HU this season, 273 passing and 188 rushing. That lack of experience has been largely responsible for average to mediocre performances against the more established offenses this season.

The best defenders are led by the linebackers and leading tacklers DeAndre Faulk (6-1, 225), King Mason (6-3, 230), Demetrius Sittmon (6-1, 220) and Keshaun Moore (6-3, 240) in the Pirates’ base 3-4 defense.

They get a lot of help from defensive backs Caleb Brown (6-1, 205, Sr.) , Jaren Rainey (6-3, 200, So.) and Ali Shockley (5-11, 185). Nose guard Andy Matthews (6-2, 295), Devin Marcano (6-6, 285, So.) and end JeDon Jenkins (6-3, 255) are the key people up front.

The Pirates are a lot more settled on offense and have shown a penchant for hitting big plays and the ability to score points in bunches with their passing game.

They have one of the better wide receivers in the nation in fleet footed Jadakis Bonds (6-4, 190, Jr.) who has posted 38 receptions for 514 yards and five touchdowns thus far this season.

He is flanked by senior Hezekiah Grimsley (6-1, 185) who is also a dangerous run after the catch threat with 16 catches for 308 yards and 2 TDs this year.

The Pirates can also run the ball behind a couple of strong backs in bullish sophomore Keyondre White (5-11, 230) and speedy freshman Elijah Burris (5-10, 195). Burris leads the Pirates in rushing with 391 yards and 5 TDs to his credit.

Calling the signals for this offense will be veteran quarterback Jett Duffey (6-0, 205,Sr.). Duffey has had his moments this season when given time hitting on 97-175 attempts for a completion rate of just over 55 percent for 1271 yards and 10 TDs against six interceptions. Greensboro native Chris Zellous (6-3, 220, Fr.) is the backup and has seen some limited action when the Pirates wish to go with the run package in short yardage situations in recent weeks.

The Pirates are big up front and do a solid job whether opening holes in the run game or protecting for the pass. Freshman Tyler McDuffie is an enormous left tackle at 6-8, 315 pounds along with sophomores Kelvin Watts (6-4,295) and Robert Viney (6-4, 300).

This Pirate offense has been consistently moving the ball, (195 yards rushing, 215 passing) and scoring points (26.8 ppg) in most every game up until last week against Charleston Southern who stymied their big play potential and held HU to just 19-42 completions in the passing game.

This weekend two HBCU old head athletic programs will reunite for the first time in four years as North Carolina A&T travels up the coastline to take on Hampton University in an important Big South Conference match-up.

The Big South Conference? Did I hear that right? Yes you did. Just a few short years ago that would have been a real headscratcher for the alumni and fan bases of both of these fine historical black institutions of higher learning but time and circumstance have a way of changing the status quo with a quickness.

When Hampton gave notice, albeit an extremely short if not non-existent one, in 2017 that it would be leaving the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference to join the Big South, it was met with a lot of surprise, speculation of motives, and outright disdain and hostility from across the HBCU spectrum.

Outgoing president William Harvey left no doubt that the severing of all ties with MEAC would be immediate and without equivocation. Hampton’s literally overnight departure was much akin to that of Ronald Irsay and the old Baltimore Colts organization skedaddling out of town to Indianapolis back in 1984.

Harvey’s somewhat omnipotent nature aside, the MEAC didn’t take kindly to Hampton’s thumbing their nose at the conference by its total disregard of the by laws, timeframes and entire withdrawal process in general. What exactly precipitated such a sudden draconian move on Hampton’s part to begin with remains a mystery to this day.

However, the MEAC didn’t help itself by unilaterally dropping all games with Hampton teams from their 2018 athletic schedules and throwing the remaining members completely under the bus when it came to replacing those dates.

After some initial threats of lawsuits and basically sanctioning Hampton of any meaningful participation , the MEAC and Hampton settled out of court resulting in essentially reduced exit fees for Hampton and basically a 3-year moratorium on any athletic competition with MEAC programs. Any way you slice it, it was a complete mess and handled extremely poorly by everyone involved.

Fast forward three years and a second member announces that their time in the MEAC has come to an end but this time it wasn’t just any member. NC. A&T had been a charter member of the MEAC from its very inception and by all accounts had always been the anchor of that conference for its 50 years of existence.

And even though A&T went strictly by the book in it’s leaving of MEAC without sustaining conflict or bad blood with the other member schools, this one would cut deep, as most people surmised that if A&T, one the largest and rapidly growing of all the nation’s HBCUs, had figured that their interests would best be served elsewhere.

It only stood to reason that the other members would think that A&T must know something and that each one would now certainly take a long hard look at their own situations.

It didn’t take long for Bethune Cookman and Florida A&M to follow suit thinking much along the same line that their long term interest best served elsewhere. Whether it was about marketability, diversity, financials, or academics it didn’t really matter in the end.

Those reasons became less important than the fact the MEAC had fallen way behind so far and fast without any real vision for growth on the business end of college athletics it became a membership to a club of diminishing returns.

Without a viable long term sustainability plan there was very little there that would have made it worthwhile for those schools to reconsider the move and to stay.

There are ever increasing choices and opportunities for growth for those HBCUs that making the necessary investments and innovative moves to attract new students and retain them, properly planning for future growth and are willing to put in the heavy lifting to not only expand but to thrive. We should ask no less of a commitment from our affiliations than we would demand of ourselves.

One could and some still do argue that a D-1 HBCU conference with a half a century of incredible history should have sufficed as the necessary catalyst to keep the old MEAC together. Those roots run deep and are indeed proud as they should be. But in this ever changing, ever demanding age in which we live, that pride, alone, by itself, simply isn’t enough anymore.

Hampton vs. A&T – This game will be an intriguing one as both teams are coming off disappointing losses from a week ago. A&T lost a tough 14-0 game against the 13th ranked team in the FCS while the Pirates lost in what can only be characterized as a bad 35-3 loss to an up and down Charleston Southern team, blessed with a superbly talented quarterback.

The measure of this game will be which one of which team will rebound and perform up to their capability. Hampton started off the year on a good note with solid performances against Virginia Union and Howard but faltered in the last three weeks starting with a devastating overtime loss to Norfolk in which the Pirates fought back hard to tie the contest at the end of regulation.

The following week Hampton held it’s own early against Kennesaw State before succumbing 31-15 in a homecoming defeat and then Charleston Southern a week ago. In each case Hampton has been undone by a porous pass defense.

A&T had been very effective offensively running off three straight wins averaging over 30 points a game but fell apart at the seams under a brutal Kennesaw defense that held the Aggies to a season low 31 yards rushing and zero points.

If the Aggies are to keep any hopes of postseason play alive it will have to start this week on the road. The key factor for A&T will be getting its offensive balance restarted by controlling the line scrimmage while the defense will need to contain a very competent Hampton passing attack that has proven to be able to hit big plays at any moment.

The Aggies have no room for error from this point forward and they should bounce back to form this Saturday but it won’t be easy against a decent team that has been up against it for almost a month and frankly has nothing to lose at this point.

This week we’ll get a real clear idea exactly where the Aggies are mentally after getting punched in the mouth. Every year a team has to find and establish their own identity. Being 3-3 at this juncture suggests to me that part is still up in the air so and it’s now or never going into these last five weeks of the season.

Either way it’s going to be a grind.


N.C. A&T – 24

Hampton – 20

Related Content