By Donal Ware
College Sports Journal
PHILADELPHIA, PA. — The first full week of HBCU football proved to be exciting. There were thrillers, such as Miles’ 31-30 loss to perennial power North Alabama, where the Golden Bears went for the two-point conversion down by one with 15 seconds left and were stopped a foot from the goal line.
There were the three touchdowns in the last two minutes-17 seconds in Washington, DC, the last coming from Howard backup quarterback Jami Cunningham to David Wilson with 22 second remaining to propel the Bison to a 29-28 come-from-behind victory over Morehouse for the second-straight season.
Then there was the game that was taken away if you’re a Florida A&M fan or the goal line stand if you’re a Tennessee State fan that saw the Tigers defeat the Rattlers 17-14 in the John Merritt Classic.
How about Texas Southern’s game-winning field goal with no time on the clock to propel the Tigers over Prairie View A&M 44-41 in Houston in the Labor Day Classic?
Morgan State’s 30-27 four overtime victory over Sacred Heart… I could be here all day.
There were 15 games decided by seven points or less, of which seven were decided by one point. (Click here to view week two HBCU football scores.)
You also had some lopsided and high-octane games like Oklahoma State’s 84-0 shellacking of Savannah State (the Tigers travel to play Florida State on Saturday) and Chowan’s 70-35 victory over Livingstone (the Blue Bears scored 48 points for the entire season in 2010).
This was one of the best full-slate of opening weekend games in HBCU football in recent memory.
My hats off to Miles head coach Reginald Ruffin who went for the two-point conversion and the win in Birmingham before a crowd of 22,268. The Golden Bears came up short, but to go toe-to-toe with North Alabama, the defending SIAC Champion Golden Bears earned a lot of respect around the nation for their come back effort.
Boxtorow National Game of the Week:
Bethune-Cookman (1-0, 0-0) vs. South Carolina State (1-0, 0-0)
Both teams are coming off impressive wins. B-CU was down 21-0, but behind the play of Boxtorow National Player of the Week Brodrick Waters who came in the game in relief, the Wildcats came away with a 38-28 victory over Alabama State in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge in Orlando.
Meanwhile, South Carolina State, also behind the play of its quarterback Richard Cue (347 yards of total offense, three touchdown passes), handily defeated Georgia State last Thursday, 33-6.
The last four years, the visiting team has won the contest, which this year plays into the favor of the Wildcats as the game will be played in Orangeburg, a place where the Bulldogs don’t often lose and is one of the best atmospheres pound-for-pound in all of college football.
Like last week, Wildcats head coach Brian Jenkins won’t name his starter until game day. Waters was the hero, but Jenkins still has faith in incumbent Jackie Wilson, who was a bit under the weather against Alabama State.
Waters definitely gives the Wildcats more versatility at the position. He completed six of nine passes for 110 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions and also rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown against ASU.
The Wildcats rushing attack was on point as Isidore Jackson and Rodney Scott also each rushed for over 100 yards. The Wildcats racked up 551 yards of total offense.
Defensively, the Wildcats will have to be better against the pass, as they gave up 253 yards to Alabama State.
Where the Wildcats stood out was against the run, where they held Alabama State to 98 yards rushing.
Isaiah Crowell, the SEAC Freshman of the Year last year at Georgia who transferred to Alabama State, managed just 18 yards on nine carries.
Preseason Boxtorow All-American linebacker Jarkevis Fields was in midseason form against the Hornets racking up 10 tackles (four solo), two tackles for loss and a sack.
While the Bulldogs ran the ball more than they threw, the offense was somewhat balanced against Georgia State.
Cue, who beat out senior Derrick Wiley for the starting job, had an eye-opening game, completing 19-of-29 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for another 47 yards.
He will have to cut down on the mistakes against B-CU, having thrown two interceptions against Georgia State.
Cue’s favorite weapon is Lennel Elmore, who after sitting out last year due to academics, caught three passes for 117 yards and a 72-yard touchdown reception.
Caleb Davis and Tyler McDonald (who combined for 16 catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns) are more than capable receivers.
The running game rushed for 188 yards, led by Julius Pendergrass’ 50 yards.
Defensively, the Bulldogs held Georgia State, which is poised for a move to the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Sunbelt Conference, to just 229 yards of total offense.
While the names may not read like current Bulldogs NFLers Christian Thompson (Baltimore Ravens), Dominique Ellis (Kansas City Chiefs) and Rafael Bush (Denver Broncos) when they were at SCSU, coach Buddy Pough still has the horses.
Linebacker Justin Hughes had a big day against Georgia State with eight tackles (seven solo), three tackles for loss, two sacks, a forced fumble and fumble recovery.
As a matter of fact, the Bulldogs put pressure on Georgia State quarterbacks, sacking them six times and will need to do the same against Wildcats quarterbacks.
Other games to watch:
Tennessee State (1-0) vs. Jackson State (0-1)
In the annual Southern Heritage Classic in Memphis, Jackson State has prevailed three of the last four meetings including the last two. The games are always close however and this year shouldn’t be any different.
The TSU Tigers offense started the season off strong against FAMU, generating 401 yards. Reigning Boxtorow Freshman of the Year, quarterback Michael German completed 22 of 32 passes for 263 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Running back Trabis Ward carried the ball 28 times for 124 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, TSU held the Rattlers to 272 yards and held preseason second team All-MEAC quarterback Damian Fleming to 15-of-30, passing for 119 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
They will however have to be better against the run as the Rattlers averaged four yards per carry as a team.
Despite losing 56-9 to FBS opponent Mississippi State, there were some positives to point to for the JSU Tigers coming into this game.
Running back B.J. Lee and Clayton Moore averaged 5.6 and 10.5 yards rushing per carry, respectively.
Quarterback Dedric McDonald was 14-of-27 for 136 yards one touchdown and two interceptions against Mississippi State and will have to and should do better against the TSU Tigers.
Boxtorow preseason All-American wide receiver Rico Richardson was solid against the Bulldogs with seven receptions for 95 yards.
Despite giving up 377 yards of total offense, JSU Tigers defensive end Joseph LeBeau showed he could play against top-level competition, registering five tackles, two for loss.
He’ll have to put pressure on German and Boxtorow preseason All-American defensive back Qua Cox (five tackles, two passes defended) and the secondary will have to be good against a talented TSU receiving corps.
Fort Valley State vs. Valdosta State
Fort Valley State pulled off a big upset last Saturday defeating perennial power Delta State 31-23.
Ordinarily this matchup Saturday would not be one of our games to watch, but the Wildcats have a legitimate opportunity to start the season 2-0 after going 2-8 last year.
It won’t be easy however as FVSU is on the road against perennial power and two-time national champion Valdosta State which is coming off a 28-24 loss to Saginaw Valley.
The Wildcats erased a 14-point deficit and scored 22 unanswered points in their victory.
Offensively running back Seth Hill carried the ball 17 times for 144 yards and two touchdowns, while quarterback Antonio Henton — the former Ohio State and Georgia Southern QB — fought off a shaky start to finish 19 of 42 for 234 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Hill will need to continue to carry the load, Henton will have to get a faster start, and wide receiver Chris Slaughter (5-72-1) will need to play big again. Valdosta State presents a balanced attack offensively.
The Wildcats will have to slow down running back Austin Scott (18-95-1) and render Blazer quarterbacks Cayden Cochran and Graham Craig less effective and force them to make mistakes.
Click here for this week’s full slate of games.
Editor's Note: Donal Ware is one of the leading voices in Historically Black College and University football. His Boxtorow.com website, popular articles for such publications as Jet magazine and regular radio shows for such networks as Sirius/XM have given him a high profile in the college and professional sports world.