By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
Another week, another big game for Alabama State.
They've played two of the nation's top FCS teams in Sam Houston State (their only loss) and Tennessee State, and knocked off the SWAC's then-undefeated Texas Southern last week.
Now they have again play the SWAC's biggest game of the week for the second week in a row when they square off against fellow 4-1 team, Alcorn State. And again, the Hornets will have their hands full as Alcorn State sports the SWAC's most prolific offense and stingiest defense. They've averaged 54 points a game in three home games this season.
"Alcorn is a good team and they have a bunch of guys that are coming
back," said ASU head coach Reggie Barlow. "They have 10 guys back on offense and 10 guys
back on defense so you're talking about a team that has played together a
long time the last three years in Coach [Jay] Hopson's defense."
Of course, Alabama State is 4-1 because they also have a high scoring offense, led by quarterback Daniel Duhart and running back Malcolm Cyrus, and a tough defense that allows the second fewest points per game - 20.8 - in the SWAC (Alcorn State is the best at 13.6).
And while the implications are big, Hopson is downplaying how big this game is.
“They’re all big (games),” Hopson said, according to HBCUSports.com. “We have a lot of rivalry games
on our schedule every year. As a team, we have to play this like any
Tonight's game kicks off at 6:30 p.m. local time and will be broadcast live on ESPNU.
Benedict Visits a Tougher-Than-They-Look-On-Paper Miles Team
Throw out their season-opening blowout to bigger in-state neighbor South Carolina State and you are looking at a Benedict squad that could have three wins out of four games this season. They've blown out SIAC foe Lane and nipped CIAA opponent Elizabeth City State and last week fell on a late field goal in a close loss to Fort Valley State.
So heading into Miles, which has lost their last three games, you'd think Benedict would be looking over-confident, right?
"They're thinking they're not playing well. But Miles is a very good football team," said Benedict head coach James Woody. "They're not going to fool us with that. They've played great teams the first four games and we're expecting a dog fight. We've got to play our best to have an opportunity to win. We've got to go in there with the frame of mind that we've got to win this football game. It's a must-win for each team. Both sides know it."
After opening the season with a convincing win over Shaw,
the Bears ran into a West Georgia team that is one of the best in the
nation. After than came two close losses to Hampton and Albany State.
Miles averages 20 points a game on offense and relies on a running game that has put up nearly 200 yards a game this season
That happens to be Benedict's achilles heel, Woody said. The Benedict pass defense is solid. The rush defense is not as they are ranked in the bottom half of the SIAC.
"We've challenged that defense, he said. "They've got to stop the run. They can't come in and run for 200, 250, 300 yards. They just
can't do that. We've got to be able to shut that down. They're
comfortable throwing the football as well. They're a balanced team, and
that's what championship caliber teams are."
Don't believe that, said Miles head coach Reginald Ruffin.
"We're not a very good football team at the moment," he said.
"And that's got a lot to do with me as a head coach. We're just not
getting it done special teams, offensively or defensively. We've got to
find a way to get us back over the hump. We're on the skids right now
and it hasn't been good for Miles."
His team does feature the conference's top running back in Jonathan Clark, who averages nearly 100 yards a game this season, and quarterback Cameron Stover, the second-ranked QB in the SIAC.
Another thing that makes this game a big one is it will be nationally telecast on CBS Sports Network tonight at 8 p.m., a first for Miles College.
"It's good for the moral of the school," Ruffin said. "For me, I have to make sure we don't embarrass the
institution the way we've been playing. It's more pressure on me to make
sure these guys are ready to play a football game rather than be in the
limelight and get embarrassed by a good Benedict football team. To me,
it's just a game. A conference game and a game we have to win."