|Photo courtesy of Hampton Athletics|
Honestly, no one before the start of this season would have thought this game would mean much. But it will, somewhat.
The Morgan State Bears, winners of two of their last three games, host the Hampton Pirates, an MEAC team that resurrected themselves from a to run off three straight wins to sit in a tie for second place in the conference.
Hampton is 3-1 in the conference, only a game behind league-leaders Bethune-Cookman, while Morgan State is 2-2 in the MEAC and themselves looking to move into second place in the conference.
This from two teams who combined for an 0-10 record before October rolled around.
"The reason why we've had success is, it starts at practice," Pirates head coach Donovan Rose told The Daily Press. "We compete in everything we do, every drill. It makes it easier so when you get to the game, the speed is still there. I think our guys, they understand. Winning is kind of contagious and they're reacting.
"Right now, we're still 3-5," Rose said. "You can dress it up how you want to, we're 3-5. Regardless of non-conference games, we're 3-5. We're humble. Nobody has a big head. We haven't done anything. We're just going to keep playing, keep working."
Morgan State head coach Donald Hill-Eley said his team shook off the early losses to bigger teams and programs so they could be focused on the biggest task at hand, MEAC games. And it's shown.
“As we’ve said before, we want to do well in conference play," he said. "You want to do well in all your games, but as we were waiting on the maturity from these guys, we wanted to do well in the conference. That win keeps us elevated in the conference and keeps things in perspective for whatever may happen.”
Morgan State has done it with the MEAC's second-best rushing offense, led by freshman Lamont Brown's 453 yards on the ground. Brown is in the MEAC top ten in rushing and total offense. Quarterback Seth Higgins has been consistent, rushing for 282 yards this year and passing for 452. Junior linebacker Cody Acker (65 tackles and 1.5 sacks ) and defensive end Chris Robinson (3 sacks) lead a Bears defense that is stingy against the pass defense as they are the MEAC's second toughest to throw against.
Hampton is nearly just as tough against the pass, ranking third in the MEAC in overall pass defense and tops in pass defense efficiency. Linebacker Delbert Tyler leads the MEAC in tackles while fellow linebacker Joshua Thorne and defensive back Carvin Johnson are all in the top ten in tackles. Defensive end Miles Groome is third in the conference in sacks and had a monster game against Delaware State with 3.5 sacks, nine tackles and forced two fumbles.
Led by quarterback Jaylian Williamson, the Pirate offense is efficient and lead the conference in field goals, meaning they dont do it with big plays. Just a steady Pirate ship.
Kickoff is at 1 p.m.
Here is a look at all the other HBCU action around the country today:
- Two 3-5 teams overall, Virginia Union and visiting Elizabeth City State, are more importantly 3-2 in the CIAA Northern Division and will be battling each other for second place. The Vikings will be looking to extend their winning streak to three games, while VUU will try to rebound after having their three-game winning streak snapped last weekend.
- Fayetteville State hosts Livingstone in their homecoming game this weekend. More importantly, the Broncos are 4-1 in the CIAA and still holding on for an outside chance at a Southern Division title behind Winston-Salem State.
- Bowie State hosts hard-luck Lincoln (Pa), a team that is 1-6 and winless in the CIAA this season. 3-5 Bowie State has only one conference win among its three wins overall this season.
- Three is the big number in Raleigh, N.C. this weekend. Reeling Johnson C. Smith is trying to break their three-game losing streak while St. Augustine's, 3-5 overall, is trying to get their third CIAA win of the season.
- Winston-Salem State has sailed through the CIAA regular season at 7-0 so far and can clinch at least a tie for the Southern Division title. But Shaw isn't any cupcake. The Bears are 5-3 overall, 3-2 in the CIAA and capable of pulling off an upset -- though the chance is remote.
- Virginia State, undefeated in the conference and the only team that can say they are just as good - or better - than Winston-Salem State, can clinch the CIAA Northern Division title with a win over Chowan. Chowan's up-and-down season comes to the Hawks looking to break a two-game losing streak and finish 2013 at .500 over the next couple of weeks.
- One of the top HBCU teams in Division I-FCS, Alabama State, steps foot into Southeastern Conference territory when they visit Kentucky, a 1-6 team suffering through an ugly season.
- This is the very definition of a trap game. Alcorn State, 5-1 in the SWAC and 7-2 overall, is looking to climb into second place in the East Division while Alabama A&M is suffering through a 2-6 season. But Alcorn State will be facing a stingy Bulldogs defense, top-ranked in the MEAC allowing the fewest yards and points per game this season.
- It's homecoming weekend in Grambling, which means a program that lost in overtime last week after an emotional coming-back-to-the-field will riding even more emotion when they host Mississippi Valley State. The two teams only account for one win this season, and that comes from the Delta Devils.
- The team leading the SIAC East Division, Albany State, doesn't even have a .500 record overall this season. And now visiting Benedict will be trying to make an even bigger mess of the East Division. The Rams are 3-4 overall but 2-0 in the SIAC while Benedict is 4-4 and 2-1. A Benedict win is vital if they want to make it to the SIAC title game. An Albany State win would set up an even bigger game next week with second-place Fort Valley State as the decider of the East Division champ.
- Morehouse will look to play the spoiler role when they visit Fort Valley State. Fort Valley State is holding on to a chance to take the East Division crown with a needed win this week and potentially a huge game next week against Albany State (see above).
- Miles visits nearby rival Stillman in a huge game for the Golden Bears. A Miles win would set up a big battle with Tuskegee next week for a share of the West Division crown. Miles is 2-1 in the SIAC while Tuskegee is 2-0. Stillman is no pushover. They are 5-3 overall and 2-2 in the SIAC themselves.
- Tuskegee, the second-best HBCU Division II in the country and one of the best D-2 teams overall, is poised to return to Atlanta for the SIAC Championship game. They control their own destiny. A win over Central State and over Miles next week is all they need. But Central State has won two of their last three games, including a win over Miles, and barely lost to Stillman last week.
- Clark Atlanta hosts Shorter College, an 0-8 team, in the first meeting between the two schools.
- Bethune-Cookman, sporting Division I-FCS' second-best defense and the MEAC's top offense and defense, has won 17 straight conference games as they head to North Carolina Central today. But the Eagles are looking to get over the .500 mark overall and in conference play.
- North Carolina A&T is looking to win back-to-back games for the first time this season since September when they host Virginia-Lynchburg on homecoming Saturday in Greensboro.
- Norfolk State tries to break their three-game losing streak against today's homecoming foe, fellow 2-6 team, Florida A&M. The Rattlers are trying to break their own two-game losing skid.
- Second-place South Carolina State is back on the road, this time trying to bounce back from last week's loss to MEAC leader Bethune-Cookman as they visit Savannah State. Last place Savannah State has the conference's worst defense while the Bulldogs sport the top scoring offense.
- Both Delaware State and visiting Howard have a lot to play for today, even if there aren't many MEAC implications. The Hornets, at 3-2 in MEAC play, are hoping to make a play for third place in the MEAC and keep working towards a .500 record overall. Howard is trying to equal DSU's conference mark and extend their winning streak to three.
- Tennessee State tries to put behind last week's drubbing by the nation's best offense and their first loss since their season-opener as they visit tough Eastern Kentucky. TSU leads the conference in defense, while EKU is second in defense and have the Ohio Valley Conference's top rushing defense. That makes for tough sledding for TSU leading rusher, Tim Broughton, who leads the OVC with 918 yards rushing so far this season.
- After losing their first four games this season, Langston is now looking to extend their winning streak to four games when they visit Oklahoma Panhandle State.
- Lincoln (Mo.) tries to get their first win since beating Grambling in September when they face winless Central Oklahoma.