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!
It wasn’t a good opening week for HBCU football.
A total of 17 games involving HBCUs were played and where an HBCU played a non-HBCU, HBCUs were 0-13.
In some of those games, the expectation was that the HBCU team would lose because they were playing an FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) school. FBS schools are bigger schools and have more scholarships.
A few HBCUs played reasonably well; for example, Howard held the lead for most of its game against Eastern Michigan before falling 34-24. Morgan State played a respectable game against Army, ultimately falling 28-12.
Typically FBS programs pay FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) programs a guarantee for playing the game. Payouts are usually between $300,000 to $500,000 depending upon the size of the FBS school.
It’s arguable whether the guarantee North Carolina Central received was worth the 45-0 loss it took to Duke.
Last week’s results were reflective in this week’s Boxtorow HBCU FCSU Coaches Poll especially for Alabama A&M with its 23-9 victory over Grambling. The Bulldogs moved up seven spots from No. 9 in the preseason to No. 2 this week
There should be much more balance this week as Division II opens the season and all of the schools from the SIAC and CIAA will be in action.
Boxtorow National Game of the Week
Alabama State (1-0) vs. Jackson State (0-1)
Jackson State fell to Tulane 35-7 on Thursday, but lost more than the game as quarterback Montez Ivy has been lost for the season with a leg injury. Clayton Moore will make the start Saturday against ASU. Moore, who helped lead the Tigers to the SWAC Eastern Division crown last year, is not 100 percent, which is why he did not play against Tulane. Moore may be the sparkplug the JSU offense needs as the Tigers turned the ball over six times.
Meanwhile, Alabama State rallied late, coming back from a 24-6 deficit before falling 24-22 at home to fellow FCS opponent Jacksonville State. The Hornets showed they could move the ball as the offense racked up 485 yards of total offense. Quarterback Daniel Duhart completed 18-of-36 passes for 204 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Running back Isaiah Crowell finished the day with 93 yards on just 11 carries. The ASU defense did give up 348 yards of offense to Jacksonville State, but linebacker Daerius Washington shined recording 11 tackles (seven solo), 2.5 tackles for loss.
Tennessee State (0-1) vs. Florida A&M (1-0)
Florida A&M defeated Mississippi Valley State 27-10 on Sunday in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge in Orlando. When quarterback Damien Fleming went down with severe leg cramps early in the third quarter, the Rattler running game stepped up. Al-Terek McBurse and Omari Albert combined to rush for 102 of the Rattlers 195 rushing yards while scoring twice. Prior to going down with the injury, Fleming was not as sharp as his 70 percent completion percentage last year would indicate.
He completed just 8-of-18 passes for 110 yards with no touchdowns and one interception although he rushed for 38 yards on six carries and a touchdown. He will start against TSU and will need to be sharp against a tough Tigers defense, which held the vaunted Bethune-Cookman offense to just 12 points and 260 yards of total offense on Sunday.
Defensively, the Rattlers held MVSU to 224 yards of offense and 10 points. Tennessee State on the other hand dropped a 12-9 decision to Bethune-Cookman in Nashville on Sunday. A potential game-tying field goal by Jamin Godfrey with no time on the clock sailed wide right. As mentioned the Tigers played well defensively. FAMU proved it could run the ball against MVSU who ranked fourth in the FCS in total defense, but will they be able to pass against TSU?
Rattlers wide receiver Lenworth Lennon caught four passes for 85 yards against MVSU and his matchup with Boxtorow preseason All-American Stephen Godbolt, III will be one to watch. While Tigers quarterback Ronald Butler was efficient against B-CU (completing 13-of-23 passes for 132 yards with no interceptions), he’ll need to find his wide receivers more and not rely so much on tight end A.C. Leonard (five receptions, 38 yards). Last year’s game ended in controversy as the Tigers won 17-14 as Fleming was stopped twice at the one-yard line inside of one minute remaining.