The HBCU sports season is officially on, and as host of the national sports talk radio show, From the Press Box to Press Row, I cover all the action on the games that showcase our Historically Black Colleges and Universities. HBCU GameTime will provide a weekly rundown on what’s happening on the field, and occasionally other sports-related topics. Let’s play!
After nine weeks of HBCU football, there are finally no winless teams.
The last three winless teams — Grambling, Savannah State and Benedict — each picked up wins at their respective homecomings last Saturday, Grambling 22-7 over Virginia University of Lynchburg, Savannah State 42-35 over Edward Waters, and Benedict 39-26 over Morehouse.
The Benedict Tigers also got their first victory of the season – at their homecoming as well – defeating Morehouse 39-26.
Boxtorow National Game of the Week — North Carolina Central (5-2, 4-0) vs. Bethune-Cookman (5-2, 4-0)
Without question, this game will go a long way in determining who will win the MEAC Championship. When the season began, no one thought that the Eagles would be in this position: undefeated and in first place in the MEAC with five wins and four games still left to play.
But this is what head coach Henry Frazier, III does. He takes bad programs and makes them good.
After turning his alma mater around and having a winning season in four of his five seasons there, Frazier took over a Prairie View A&M program that had not only gone 1-10 in back-to-back 2001 and 2002 seasons, but had also lost 80-straight games from 1989-98. He eventually led the program to back-to-back 9-1 season including a SWAC championship title in 2009.
The Eagles were 3-8 last year, Frazier’s first at NCCU and with a lot of the same personnel, the Eagles are HBCU football’s hottest team, winners of four-straight.
It all begins offensively for the Eagles with quarterback Jordan Reid. Reid was projected to be the starter coming into the season, but was beat out by junior college transfer Matt Goggans. Reid played well in the second half of the Duke game and has been the starter ever since. Since becoming the starter he is completing 72 percent of his passes for 788 yards with seven touchdowns and just three interceptions.
He distributes the ball nicely to receivers and running backs and his tight end Jonathan Nicely (8-128). Running back Arthur Goforth is the team’s second leading receiver 21 receptions, while wide receiver Marvin Poole leads the team in receptions (25) and yards (314).
His deep threat is the electrifying Giovonie Irvine who is averaging 16.1 yards per reception with three touchdowns.
Speaking of Irvine he also returns punts and kickoffs and has returned one punt for a touchdown. Goforth is also dangerous in the return game and has returned both a punt and kickoff for a touchdown. If the game comes down to kicking the Eagles have reason for concern as Oleg Parent has connected on only 6-of-14 field goals and has missed three extra points.
On defense the Eagles are No .1 in the MEAC and one of the tops in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) in rush defense, giving up only 110 yards per game. They will need to be on their A game against Bethune-Cookman who boasts the league’s top rushing offense at 230 yards per game. Tazmon Foster the MEAC’s reigning Defensive Player of the Week leads the unit with 39 tackles. The Eagles as a team have 57 tackles for loss on the season.
After sometimes playing three quarterbacks in a game to start the season, it looks like Wildcats head coach Brian Jenkins has settled on Quentin Williams. The former Mr. Football in the state of Florida has responded and had his best game of the season in the 48-3 blowout of defending champion Norfolk State on Saturday going 9-for-11 for 157 yards, two touchdowns no interceptions while rushing for another 27 yards. As a matter of fact Williams has not thrown an interception in the five games that he has played in.
He has two very good receivers in KJ Stroud (17-205-1) and Eddie Poole (15-222-2).
But what really makes the Wildcats offense go is its running game. Isodore Jackson (112-549-5) and Rodney Scott (88-421-3) average 4.9 and 4.8 yards per carry, respectively. Williams has also shown in can run if need be with a 111-yard, two- touchdown performance in the 28-10 victory over North Carolina A&T.
Defensively where the Wildcats are vulnerable is against the run, where they rank seventh in the MEAC giving up 151 yards per game. While the Eagles only average 126 yards rushing per game, they are very capable of making more of a commitment to the run and have the horses to do so with Andre Clarke (61-335-9) who averages 5.5 yards per carry and Goforth (91-387-3) who averages 4.3 yards per carry.
The Wildcats are pretty good against the pass and have picked off a league leading 13 passes. Defensive backs Nick Addison and Dion Hanks have three a piece.
BC-U is also +17 in turnover margin and has forced opponents into 25 turnovers, which leads the MEAC.