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BASN’S HBCU Game Of The Week: No. 1 Hampton vs. No. 2 Grambling in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge
By Tony McClean
Updated: September 1, 2006
NEW HAVEN, Ct. — For the first full weekend of black college football, some fans may think that the powers that be have taken a page from the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series.
Every year the sport’s biggest race of the year, the Daytona 500, is held at the beginning of the season. This Saturday, a battle of the top two teams in HBCU football will be the highlight of this weekend’s schedule.
Hampton, No. 1 in BASN’s current Top 10 Poll, will travel to Birmingham, Alabama to meet No. 2 Grambling in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge at Legion Field. Both teams are also featured prominently (the Pirates at 13, the Tigers at 23) ranked in the Sport Network’s Division I-AA poll. The game will be seen on ESPN beginning at 11 am ET.
Both schools were 11-1 last year and co-national champions of black college football. While both teams lost key players to graduation, there’s still plenty of fire power on both sides.
Hampton senior tailback Alonzo Coleman needs just 243 yards to become the Pirates’ all-time leading rusher and 547 yards to become the MEAC’s all-time rusher as well.
In fact with another 1,000-yard season, Coleman can become only the eighth back in Division I history to run for at least 1,000 yards in four consecutive seasons.
As for Grambling, red shirt sophomore quarterback Brandon Landers will replace the record-setting Bruce Eugene under center. Landers, who sat out all of 2005, was the SWAC’s Freshman of The Year in 2004 when he replaced an injured Eugene at the beginning of that season.
In another game matching two teams from BASN’s Top 10, No. 3 Alabama A&M visits No. 8 Tennessee State Saturday night at 6 pm ET in the John Merritt Classic. The game will be broadcast on Comcast Sports South.
Once again, Anthony Jones and the Bulldogs will be one of the favorites to capture the SWAC East crown in 2006 and head to Birmingham in December with a shot at a conference title. 2005 was the first time in the history of the program that an A&M team has won nine games in a single campaign.
Tennessee State is looking bounce back from last year’s disappointing 2-9 season. The Tigers return 18 starters from last season, but new coordinators on both sides of the ball and some talented I-A transfers will give coach James Webster a revamped look for 2006.
OTHER BASN TOP 10 TEAMS IN ACTION
(All times are ET)
(4) S.C. STATE (0-0) at WOFFORD (0-0), 7 pm
The Bulldogs (9-2 in 2005) need this win over the Terriers to convince I-AA voters that they can win outside of the MEAC. They’ve come close, including a two-point loss (24-22) to Wofford during their last meeting in 2004. In fact, two of their last three meetings (all Wofford wins) have been decided by a total of three points. Both teams were left out of the I-AA playoffs last year. The Terriers (6-5 in 2005) have slipped somewhat since winning the Southern Conference in 2003 and advancing to the I-AA semifinals.
SHAW at (5) N.C. CENTRAL (1-0), 4 pm (Sunday)
(Labor Day Classic at Durham, N.C.)
The Eagles looked impressive in their 20-0 win over Albany State as QB Stafford Brown passed for 206 yards to big targets Julius McClellan and Charles Futrell. RB Greg Pruitt looked in mid season form rushing for 87 yards. Defensively, the Eagles looked strong holding ASU to a mere 148 yards. Shaw is an intriguing story for 2006. New SU Coach Daryl Asberry returns significant offensive firepower. QB Jermonty Kimbrough has won a CIAA Title and his top target Damon Harrison was the Championship Game MVP in ‘04. Kimbrough is the conference active career leader in passing with 5,649 yards. RB Reginald Price will lead the way on the ground.
(6) MISSISSIPPI VALLEY (0-0) vs. ARK.-PINE BLUFF (0-0), 4 pm
(Chicago Football Classic at Chicago, Ill)
Fresh off their first winning season in nine seasons, Willie Totten’s Delta Devils open against on the road against conference foe Arkansas-Pine Bluff. MVSU is covered on both sides of the line with senior QB Aries Nelson (the SWAC’s Preseason Offensive Player of the Year) and LB Tyler Knight (the SWAC’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year). The Lions will be led by sophomore tailback Mickey Dean, whose 729 rushing yards and 11 TDs earned him the SWAC’s 2005 Freshman of the Year award.
(7) FLORIDA A&M (0-0) vs. DELAWARE STATE (0-0), 1:30 pm
(Ford Football Classic at Detroit, Mi.)
The Hornets shocked the Rattlers in Tallahassee last year to welcome FAMU back into the MEAC. Head coach Rubin Carter had only been on the job for only three days prior to that game. Both schools have been picked to finish third by the league coaches. This should be a close battle as both teams lost a lot of defensive power due to graduation. The Rattlers lead the all-time series 18-5. DSU hasn’t won back-to-back games against FAMU since 1992-93. By the way, the Rattlers lost to Alabama State 38-22 in the inaugural Classic in 2003.
(9) SOUTHERN vs. BETHUNE-COOKMAN, 7 pm
(53rd Annual Gateway Classic at Jacksonville, Fla.)
The Jaguars and Wildcats haven’t met since the 1998 Heritage Bowl (won by SU 28-2) in Atlanta, Alvin Wyatt’s second year as BCC’s head coach. Since that time, both schools nearly have identical records: Southern 54-27, Bethune-Cookman 55-27. The Wildcats are 29-22-1 all-time in the Gateway Classic, but are just 2-3 against SWAC opponents. One of those losses was to SU (14-10) in the 1982 Classic. The Jaguars lead the all-time series 4-0.
NOTE: No. 5. Tuskegee is idle.
OTHER HBCU GAMES OF NOTE
VIRGINIA STATE at NORFOLK STATE, 6 pm
(Virginia Lottery Labor Day Classic at Norfolk, Va.)
The Trojans have dominated their MEAC in-state rivals, winning the last three contests. In fact, VSU handled Norfolk State 34-6 last season. The Trojans have dominated the entire series as well, with a 27-16-1 record against the Spartans. Last year, VSU was one of defensive stalwarts of the CIAA. However, graduation hit the Trojans hard with Yuri Norrell and Pierre Lee moving on. Offensively, VSU returns with their entire offensive line intact. RB Nick Fleming, one of the finest backs in the league, will follow the Trojans’ massive offensive line. NSU Coach Pete Adrian has done a fine job rebuilding the Spartan program and a win against rival Virginia State should set the tone for a good 2006 season.
MOREHOUSE at FORT VALLEY STATE, 6 pm
The Maroon Tigers are on the road once again but will have its hands full trying to stop the run against Fort Valley State. MC had a stellar game out of Eddie Rowe and QB Carlos King. Rowe stepped out of the shadow of JD Washington and showed BC that he could run the rock too, rushing for 178 yards on 27 carries and 2 touchdowns. FVSU was not impressive on the scoreboard with a 9-8 victory over Clark Atlanta. They racked up 190 yards rushing but couldn’t get their passing game going. Defensively, they held CAU to 66 yards of total offense. Look for this game to be low scoring in the first half but a barn burner in the second half and FVSU gets its offense on track and they score quick and often against the MHC defense.
WINSTON-SALEM STATE (0-1) at N.C. A&T (0-0), 6:30 pm
(I-40 Classic at Greensboro, N.C.)
You can forget the series record (A&T leads 33-9) and the fact that the Aggies have won the last four meetings. You can also forget the fact that next year this will become a conference game. Simply put, the Aggie-Ram rivalry is one of the richest in all of black college football. In fact when Aggie Stadium first opened in 198, A&T defeated WSSU 21-14. New Aggie head coach Lee Fobbs will make his debut as A&T looks to rebound from last year’s 3-8 campaign. The Rams are coming off a 21-7 loss to Catawba College in last week’s season opener.