By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
Just looking at past history, the Atlanta Football Classic, pitting North Carolina A&T against South Carolina State, looks like a one-sided affair.
SCSU, one of the most HBCU football's most consistently solid programs, has beaten North Carolina A&T, a program that was on hard times through most of the past 20 years, 12 out of their last 13 meetings.
But this isn't the same kind of North Carolina A&T team.
After winning seasons every year from 1996 to 2001 (and only one losing season between 1990 to 2001), North Carolina A&T football hit the skids. A 10-3 season in 2003 was the only bright spot from 2002 to 2011 as the program was 34-80 during that time span.
They went through six coaches during that period until Broadway took over the program in 2011.
Since then, there has only been one losing season, his first when they went 5-6 after going 1-10 the year before his arrival. Two 7-4 records the past two years were the first back-to-back winning seasons for Aggies football in 11 years.
Now A&T sits atop the MEAC at 4-1 overall and winning their only conference game so far. They lead the conference in total offense, scoring offense and scoring defense.
Led by Tarik Cohen's 140 rushing yards a game, the Aggies are second best MEAC running team in the conference. They also sport a solid passing game led by Kwashaun Quick who is also a top ten MEAC rusher.
“We’re an up-and-coming program,” Broadway old the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “We’re close. We have a
pretty good football team. This is probably the most talent we’ve had
since we’ve been here. We expect to show it in the season. South
Carolina State has been where we are trying to get.”
South Carolina State's Buddy Pough celebrated his 100th win as coach last week and brings a team to Hotlanta that was 9-4 last year, won a share of the MEAC title, and have been in the FCS playoffs four times since 2008. This year, their two blowout losses have been to one of the best FCS teams in the nation in Coastal Carolina and ACC power Clemson. Take those out of the equation and the Bulldogs have scored a combined 97 points in wins against Benedict, Hampton and Furman.
All American defensive lineman Alex Glover and Andrew Carter both had double-digit sack seasons last year and anchor a defense this year that's given up only 17 points in those three games.
But Pough isn't resting on those laurels.
“When you see A&T on film they do everything well,” he told the AJC. “We
would like to think we can match up with them but at the same time it
will be a tough game for us.”
Today's game, which kicks off at 3:30 p.m. and will be broadcast live on ESPN3 and shown later on ESPNU.
SIAC Division Leaders Fort Valley State and Tuskegee Battle
Two of the SIAC's most storied programs square off today in Alabama as Fort Valley State visits Tuskegee. And, as usual, these are two of the best conference teams this season.
Fort Valley State shook off a season opening blowout loss to Delta State to win their last three games. But besides their solid win over FCS also-ran Savannah State, their wins over Benedict and Clark Atlanta have been decided by a total of four points.,
The Rams has uncharacteriscally struggled on defense this season, particularly against the pass. Of the 346 yards of offense they've given up a game this season, 217 and 10 touchdowns has been through the air.
That cold be an issue as Tuskegee's dual quarterbacking duo, Justin Nared and Kevin Lacey, have thrown for a combined 231 yards a game, which, if they were one player, would lead the SIAC.
"(Offensively) we try to attack people, but I'm not going to tell them
were I'm trying to attack them. We've just got to do the best we can on
each one of our plays," Tuskegee head coach Willie Slater told the Montgomery Advertiser. "I think (Pittman) said on one of
his shows that we have three running plays and we throw the ball. So
we've got to get better at those three plays so we can execute."
Here is a look at all of the HBCU football games on tap around the country today:
Central State vs. Kentucky State (Circle City
Classic, Indianapolis, IN) (Central State is in need a of a good showing
after a rough couple of weeks where they have been defeated a combined
112-11. Though they've lost their last three games, Kentucky State has
been mostly solid as they've been on the short end in two close games.
Justin Williams and Jacquise Lockett key a good KSU running game that
could give the SIAC's worst defense (second worst rushing defense also)
Morehouse at Clark Atlanta (Forgive Morehouse is they have something in their long distance vision - longtime rival, Tuskegee who they play next weekend. A win over Clark Atlanta and a Tuskegee win against Fort Valley State would set up a huge game. But this is a big Atlanta University Center rivalry game that Clark Atlanta always gets up for. Morehouse's running game has fallen off while their passing game has taken off. But Paine slowed that down last week and aside from their West Georgia blowout, the Panthers like to control the ball and play defense)
Stillman at Lane (Lane couldn't get anything going on offense against Tuskegee last week. Actually, offense has been an issue all season as they are the SIAC's bottom-dwellers in total offense. They haven't been able to run the ball at all this season, averaging a paltry 28 yards a game on the ground. Stillman's Jovontae Thurmon has been a bright spot, with five touchdowns and 72 yards a game rushing. Stillman's defense gives up a ton of yards and points, 428 yards and 34 points a game)
Albany State at Paine (One thing opponents have figured out this year is that Paine is no pushover. They slowed down a high-flying Morehouse passing game last week and kept close as they have in every game this season. Statistically, Paine is near the top of the SIAC in passing, total offense and scoring. But Albany State is Albany State. They've struggled to score big time this year, but they have the league's most rugged and stingiest defense)
Howard at North Carolina Central (Howard has one of the most prolific players in HBCU football in quarterback Greg McGhee. But he can't do it alone, as evidenced by the Bison's 1-4 record. They give up 34 points and 437 yards offense each game. Central's Malcolm Bell and Quinn Billerman have had their offense moving well, though they will have to take it up a notch to keep up with McGhee)
Norfolk State at Savannah State (These are two teams who have struggled again this season, with only one win between both teams and that came last week as Norfolk State won on a last minute touchdown over Morgan State. The problem for Savannah State is offensive. They have one of the most anemic offenses in the MEAC while Norfolk State leads the conference in total defense. The Spartans only allowed 38 yards passing last week. But Norfolk State only averages 8.4 points a game themselves)
Delaware State at Bethune-Cookman (This could be the very definition of a trap game. Or it can result in a lopsided affair that the stats would dictate. Bethune-Cookman has the MEAC's second-best defense which is also the stingiest against the run, while Delaware State has the league's most anemic offense, accounting only 227 yards of total offense a game. But Bethune-Cookman passers better be wary -- the Hornets are stout against the pass, only giving up 129 yards a game and two touchdowns all season)
Morgan State at Florida A&M (This will be Florida A&M's first game with new offensive coordinator who takes over a unit that is among the MEAC's worst. They rank at the bottom in rushing offense and next to last in total offense. They host an up-and-coming Morgan State squad that has the MEAC's best rushing offense, featuring running back Herb Walker Jr. and quarterback Robert Council)
Shaw at Virginia Union (You have to do some work to move the ball against Virginia Union. They have 12 sacks and allowed only one touchdown and give up the second-fewest yards in the CIAA. They are solid on the other of the ball as they are fourth in total offense. Shaw looked good in beating Lincoln (Pa) last week. Their defense will be tested this week)
Livingstone at Elizabeth City State (Livingstone stayed undefeated with a late field goal against Bowie State last week. But led by quarterback Drew Powell, they still sport the CIAA's top offense. Elizabeth City State will have to amp up an offense that is near the bottom of the CIAA. Livingstone has given up 33 points a game on D this season)
Fayetteville State at Lincoln (Pa) (Lincoln (Pa) looks good each week, except for a week two loss to North Carolina Wesleyan. Fayetteville State has struggled on offense, though they have played decent defense. They have accounted for 10 sacks this season)
St. Augustine's at Virginia State (Virginia State is now starting to look like the team that ran through the CIAA into the championship game last year. Both the defense and offense have started to click during the Trojans' last two games. The St. Aug's offense came alive in the first quarter last week in their first win of the season. They'll need that kind of performance this week)
Johnson C. Smith at Bowie State (Bowie State nearly knocked off Livingstone last week, mostly on the strength of a churning running game led by Kendall Jefferson and Keith Brown. But to get their first win of the season, the Bulldogs will have to keep a Johnson C. Smith offense that can be explosive (though rarely in 2014) in check. The JCSU running game has been bleak though)
Winston-Salem State at Chowan (Winston-Salem State keeps humming along, as they continue to stand among the conference leaders in offense and defense. Ask Elizabeth City State who was throttled 35-7 last week. Chowan runs the ball well, but they have the CIAA's worst defense)
Grambling State at Alabama A&M (Grambling is looking good for the first time in a long time. They aren't particular spectacular on either side of the ball, but they are playing much better football and have won two games in a row for the first time since 2011. But they head into homecoming territory at Alabama A&M, a team led by Jaymason Lee, a quarterback who leads the SWAC in passing efficiency and has thrown six TDs. In last week's win, newcomers kick returner Ocatvious Miles and running back Harvey Harris shined)
Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Southern (UAPB played well against Jackson State last week, though they lost in overtime. But their biggest problem - defense - came to light. They give up 35 points a game. Southern's problem hasn't been on offense. It's also on defense where they've given up 38 points and nearly 467 yards a game. That's good news for stud running back Benjamin Anderson for UAPB)
Prairie View A&M at Jackson State (Jackson State is coming off a big overtime win last week that put them back on the winning side after losses to Tennessee State and Grambling. They give up a lot of points, especially in the first half - 86 points in four games this year. Prairie View has lost all four games this year, but aside from their big loss to McNeese State, they've been in every contest. They feature a solid passing duo in quarterback Jerry Lovelock and the SWAC's leading receiver in catches per game in Greg Thurmond.)
Mississippi Valley State at Texas Southern (Mississippi Valley State may be heading into a bad situation or they may be going into Texas at the right time. Texas Southern was flying high until Alabama State thumped them last week. So the Tigers may have something to prove. MVSU is 0-4 in their last four games and they haven't been very close)
Tennessee State at Southeast Missouri State (
Langston at Texas College (If Langston, who has dropped three straight after a season-opening win over wants to keep pace with first place Oklahoma Baptist in the Central States Football League, they must beat teams such as 0-5 Texas College. Statistically, Langston sports the CSFL's second-best offense, but the second-worst defense. The good news for Langston is that Texas College is at the bottom of the CSFL in both categories.