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HBCU Game Time

Conference Play Begins in HBCU Football

Thank you for joining me as a write HBCU Game Time, powered by BOX TO ROW for JET!  As host of the national sports talk radio show “From the Press Box to Press Row,” I cover all sports, with an emphasis on our Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

This week begins conference play in HBCU football.

And for most teams, conference play can’t come soon enough.

HBCUs won have just 17 of the 88 games played against non-HBCUs through the first four weeks of the season. And not all of the games were the so called “money games” where essentially schools get a guarantee to play knowing they probably won’t win. For the second year in a row, Bethune-Cookman reversed the script and collected a check and a victory, defeating FBS opponent Florida International 14-12.

We probably won’t see the two teams play anytime soon.

Still, amongst the top 10 teams in the BOXTOROW media and coaches polls, every team has at least a .500 record, which hasn’t necessarily been the case in past years going into conference play. Texas Southern is one of the big surprises in HBCU football so far this year. The Tigers, who have faced a myriad of sanctions from the NCAA for various violations, are 4-0 under third-year head coach Darrell Asberry. The Tigers will have their stiffest test of the season as they travel to Montgomery to take on SWAC foe Alabama State on Saturday.

Livingstone, who prior to this year had won 10 games in the last 10 years with three winless seasons, is 3-0 in 2014. This is the most wins that the Blue Bears have had in any season since they went 3-7 in 2003. Third-year head coach Daryl Williams has put together an offense that leads all CIAA teams in total offense (445.3 yards per game) and scoring (52.3 points per game). The Blue Bears open CIAA play on Saturday at home against winless Bowie State.

BOXTOROW National Game of the Week

No. 6/5 Texas Southern (4-0, 2-0) vs. No . 1/4 Alabama State (3-1, 1-0)

Some may argue that the level of competition that TSU has faced has not been up to snuff. It certainly is not up to the level of competition that ASU has played including defeating Tennessee State, the coaches preseason No. 1, and falling to then No. 14 ranked Sam Houston State 51-20 to open the season.

The Tigers showed improvement the second half of last season and that improvement has carried over to this season. The Tigers are top three in the SWAC in every major offensive and defensive statistical category. Quarterback Homer Causey is slated to start but was injured in the opening season victory over Prairie View A&M and missed the next two games. Redshirt freshman Jamal Small has played well in relief completing 57 percent of this passes for 528 yards with seven touchdown and two interceptions. Asberry said both quarterbacks will play and both may have some opportunities to further exploit a Hornets defense that is ranked last in the conference in pass defense (310.5).

The ASU offense is also one of the tops in the conference. While Texas Southern is third in the conference against the run, they have yet to face a running back the caliber of ASU’s Malcolm Cyrus. Cyrus has been dynamite for the Hornets this year, rushing for 612 yards through four games, averaging 7.2 yards per carry with four touchdowns. He has rushed for no less than 170 yards in the last three games and rushed for 188 yards and three touchdowns in a nationally televised win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Thursday.

Special teams could play a major role in the outcome of the game. Texas Southern ranks first in punt average (40.7) and kickoff coverage (43.2) and ranks second in kickoff return average (26.4), while ASU ranks third in punt return average (14.6).

About Donal Ware

Donal Ware, HBCU GameTime

Donal Ware is the authority on HBCU football.  Listen to Box to Row on Fridays 1p ET/10a PT on SiriusXM Channel 141 and Saturdays 12p/9a PT on SiriusXM Channel 142. You can follow Donal Ware on Twitter @dware1 and @boxtorow and Facebook /box2row. Please share your thoughts at digitalpitches@ebony.com.