By Tony McClean
Updated: November 17, 2006
NEW HAVEN, Ct.
— When the HBCU football season began, the “experts” had differing opinions for the prospects of the Vikings of Elizabeth City State (No. 6 in the latest BASN HBCU Football Top Ten Poll) and the Golden Rams of Albany State University (No. 7).
Picked by many to repeat as SIAC champs, ASU (7-3, 6-1) lived up to their preseason hype to win their fourth consecutive league crown. The Golden Rams’ strength was a tough defense that allowed just 43 points in seven conference games (96 overall).
Leading Mike White’s defense was the SIAC’s Defensive Player of The Year, Alton Pettway. A member of BASN’s Preseason All-America Team, Pettway led all Division II players in sacks with 14.5 and led the SIAC in tackles for losses with 21.5.
Coming off a 3-7 campaign in 2005, ECSU were predicted by many to not be much of a factor in the CIAA’s Eastern Division race. However, Waverly Tillar’s bunch did their talking on the field.
The result was a 9-1 regular season, an Eastern Division title including an undefeated mark of 7-0, and their first trip to the CIAA Championship game since 1981. While ECSU fell just short of a league crown, they did gain a trip to the Division II playoffs.
On Saturday afternoon, both the Golden Rams and Vikings will begin their new postseason quests. At Roebuck Stadium, fourth-seeded ECSU will host fifth-seeded Delta State (9-2) in a South Atlantic Regional contest at 12 noon.
It will be the Vikings’ first playoff appearance since winning the CIAA Championship in 1971. ECSU was defeated by Northern Michigan in a first-round game. If the Vikings win, they’ll travel back to Durham, N.C. to meet the Eagles of N.C. Central.
The game will be a rematch of last week’s CIAA title game, which was won by NCCU, top seed of the South Atlantic region. In fact, the last CIAA to win an NCAA playoff game was Hampton in 1993. Ironically, the Pirates defeated Albany State 33-7 in that contest.
The sixth-seeded Golden Rams will travel to Newberry, S.C. to meet Newberry College (10-1) in another South Atlantic Regional contest. Ironically, the third-seeded Indians handed Elizabeth City State their only other loss this season, a 49-33 setback on September 23rd.
(All times EST, BASN rankings in parentheses)
(3) Delaware State at Howard, 1 pm.
The Hornets are still hoping for a share of the MEAC crown and a possible at-large Division I-AA playoff berth when they travel to D.C. this weekend. DSU’s current win streak of six is their longest since they won nine straight en route to the 1987 MEAC Championship. The Bison have won three of their last four, but they’ve also lost five of their last six meetings against the Hornets.
Texas Southern at (4) Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 4 p.m.
Getting ready for their SWAC title showdown with Alabama A&M, the Golden Lions close out their home schedule against the Tigers. The teams have split the last four meetings, however APBU has outscored TSU 82-23 in the last two meetings, including a 42-0 shutout in 2004 at home.
Prairie View at (5) Alabama A&M, 1:30 p.m.
The Bulldogs will also close out their home schedule to prepare for the SWAC title game on December 16th. After a promising 2-1 start, the Panthers have lost their last six games. However, four of those last losses have been by a touchdown or less.
J.C. SMITH, TUSKEGEE TO MEET IN PIONEER BOWL IX
The CIAA and the SIAC have selected the Golden Bulls of Johnson C. Smith and the Golden Tigers of Tuskegee to vie for the Pioneer Bowl title on Saturday, December 2, 2006 , at the American Legion Memorial Stadium, Charlotte , NC . Kickoff is at 2 pm.
This marks the first year for Johnson C. Smith University’s participation in the Pioneer Bowl. With an almost miraculous turn-around from the 2005 season, the Golden Bulls finished the regular season with a 7-3 record, up from 0-10.
Towards the later part of the season, the Golden Bulls broke into the Southeast Region as the 12th ranked squad. This year will mark Tuskegee’s seventh appearance in the Pioneer Bowl, with a 4-2 record against the CIAA representative.
This season, Tuskegee currently stands at 7-3 and 5-2 in the SIAC, second to Albany State who is slated for the NCAA Division II playoffs. Tuskegee is also HBCU’s winningest football team with 586 wins to date.
The Pioneer Bowl is the only NCAA sanctioned bowl game for HBCU’s.