HBCU Gametime: Midterm Grades
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!
Donal Ware, HBCU GameTime
It is the midway point in the HBCU football season, which means its time for midterm grades. We’ll look in detail at what the respective conference champions from last year are doing, but high marks go to Tennessee State, Virginia State, and Johnson C. Smith.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff (0-5, 0-3)
There must be something in the water in the SWAC. This is the second straight year that the champion from the previous year has started the season 0-5 (Grambling). Quite a few players from last year’s team have been deemed ineligible for this season. While the offense hasn’t been spectacular, it has been solid.
Preseason SWAC Offensive Player of the Year quarterback Ben Anderson has completed 55 percent of his passes for 1,100 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions. The rushing attack is nowhere near where it was last year and while Anderson’s numbers are solid, with a better running game they could be better.
Defensively, the Gold Lions have struggled, ranking last in points allowed (44.6), and tying for last in total defense (509.4). The loss of Boxtorow National Defensive Player of the Year Brandon Thurmond and his 18.5 sacks has really hurt the Golden Lions who only have five sacks so far. On a positive note, UAPB leads the SWAC in turnover margin (+9).
Midterm Grade: D-
Bethune-Cookman (4-1, 2-0)
The Wildcats have been very good this year, their only loss coming to top 10 ranked Florida State two weeks ago. As a matter of fact, they defeated Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) school Florida International 34-13 and avenged a loss last year to Tennessee State holding off the Tigers 12-9 in Nashville.
Under fourth-year head coach Brian Jenkins, the Wildcats have garnered a reputation for offense, but it’s their defense that has been getting it done. The ‘Cats rank fourth in FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) in total defense giving up just 275 yards per game while also ranking 11th in points allowed per game (18.0).
While preseason All-American linebacker Jarkevis Fields leads the team in tackles (30), 13 other players have at least 10 tackles. Offensively, B-CU is second in the MEAC in points per game (27.8) and third in total offense (344.8). While they have three capable quarterbacks who all play, the Wildcats run to pass ratio is 2-to-1. Anthony Jordan leads the way with 363 yards, 5.4 yards per carry and three touchdowns.
Midterm Grade: A
Tuskegee (4-1, 2-0)
This season marks the first time the Golden Tigers will be eligible for the Division II Playoffs. Since 1924, TU has played in the annual Turkey Day Classic against Alabama State. Offensively, the Golden Tigers lost All-American running back Derrick Washington and have had to rely on a running back by committee, which is netting them 165 yard per game, ranking in the middle of the pack in the SIAC.
Quarterback Justin Nared has completed just 51 percent of his passes for 711 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Defensively, the Golden Tigers are solid as All-SIAC linebacker Quavon Taylor leads the team with 49 tackles. The good news for the Tigers is they have beaten perennial power Albany State, and Fort Valley State, but still have to play an always tough Miles team at home to end the season.
Midterm Grade: B-
Winston-Salem State (4-1, 2-0)
They opened the season with a 25-21 loss to UNC Pembroke after committing three turnovers. They have taken that loss out on their last four opponents outscoring them 208 to 57, including a 35-13 statement win over defending SIAC champion Tuskegee in the Cleveland Classic. The Rams are still a top 15 offense in Division II rolling up 523 yards per game and top 10 in scoring averaging 46 points per game.
Rudy Johnson took over the starting quarterback duties the second game of the season and has completed 62 percent of this passes for 1,016 yards, 11 touchdowns and only one interception. Because of their defense, they could make a return to the national championship game. The Rams are giving up a CIAA-leading 16.4 points per game and are third in Division II in total defense (234.8). Boxtorow All-American linebacker Carlos Fields leads the team with 29 tackles.
Midterm Grade: B+