By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
Stem’s touchdown was set up by a sack of Panthers’ quarterback Cheston Hickman by redshirt freshman Cody Berry, who forced a fumble that was recovered junior defensive end Matthew Faas at the 13-yard line.
Roken threw incomplete on first down and then hit Stem over the middle, and the senior found his way into the end zone to give the Warriors the lead. Junior Greg Knauss converted the extra point.
Michael Hampton returned the ensuing kickoff to the 49-yard line, but starting quarterback Lamar Little returned and lost eight yards on the first play and threw two incomplete passes to bring up fourth down. Redshirt senior Jesse Reider forced punter Wayne Motley to pull the ball down and run, and ESU took over on downs at the VUU 41-yard line.
ESU failed to pick up fourth down conversions inside the 20-yard line on its next two possessions, but forced Virginia Union to go the length of the field. The final turnover on downs came with 1:35 left, and Little’s final pass was broken up at the 25-yard line to end the game.
The Warriors struck first thanks to defense and special teams. Senior Nick Krut hammered a 49-yard punt, and a penalty on the return put the ball at the six-yard line. VUU tailback Tarian Donaldson fumbled on the next play and senior linebacker Fred Rice recovered at the three-yard line. Senior tailback Joe Partridge scored on the next play to put ESU ahead 7-0 with 8:27 to go in the opening period.
Little led the Panthers 65 yards in six plays to put the tying touchdown on the board with a 13-yard run, but Gil Hernandez missed the extra point to keep the score 7-6, and the Warriors maintained the lead going into the break.
Virginia Union regained the lead with a 33-yard field goal by Hernandez to cap the opening drive of the second half, a 10-play, 61-yard march that made the score 9-7. The Panthers’ advantage was extended to 11-7 when ESU was flagged for holding in the end zone, resulting in a safety, with just over two minutes left in the third quarter.
ESU put together its first sustained drive of the game on its first possession of the fourth quarter, as Roken moved the offense 56 yards in 11 plays, keyed by passes to junior Sam Shuman for 27 yards and sophomore Ed Kiser for 18 yards.
Knauss missed a 43-yard field goal attempt wide right, but the tide turned on Virginia Union’s 3rd-and-10 play from the 26, as Berry came off the right edge and sacked Hickman to force the turnover.
Linebackers Matt Freed (13 tackles), Fred Rice (11), David Pacchioni (8) and Steve Van Alstine (7) led the Warriors in tackles, and ESU limited Virginia Union to 104 yards of total offense in the second half and 259 for the game.
Roken was 12-for-28 for 122 yards and the touchdown to Stem, and Stem had six catches for 48 yards to lead the Warriors offense. Sophomore Jeff Giglio had two long kick returns in the first quarter, averaging 47.5 yards per return.
Little was 9-for-20 passing for 96 yards and Hickman threw for 43 yards after entering the game at the start of the third quarter. Donaldson (15 carries, 59 yards) and Chris Smith (10 carries, 46 yards) helped the Panthers run for 120 yards in the contest, but only 40 after halftime.
SATURDAY’S KEY GAMES
S.C. STATE at CENTRAL FLORIDA
The Bulldogs will also have a new signal caller this season. Sophomore Malcolm Long will lead the passing attack for the team after backing up Cleveland McCoy in 2007. UCF will have to contain BTRC/BASN All-America selection William Ford, who paced the team with 1,389 yards and four touchdowns last season. Anthony Campbell should also see time in the backfield for the Bulldogs. The senior transferred from Auburn prior to last season. Defensively, SCSU return nine of 11 starters from 2007. UCF enters the 2008 season in a different role than years before. This time around, the Knights are the hunted. The 2007 edition of the Knights captured the first conference championship in program history with a 44-25 victory over Tulsa in the Bright House Networks Conference USA Championship.
VIRGINIA STATE at NORFOLK STATE
Last season, Virginia State suffered through a difficult 4-6 campaign including major injuries to key personnel. However, the Trojans will begin their 2008 campaign relatively healthy. The Trojans will be led by RB Nick Fleming who rushed for 800 yards last season. An experienced offensive line will lead the way for Fleming. Defensively, VSU returns a bevy of experience led by DB Andre Lipscomb and LB LeQuentin Milo. Norfolk State had its first winning season since moving to Division I at 8-3. The Spartans were picked third in the MEAC. This is the Labor Day Classic.
GRAMBLING STATE at NEVADA
Last season, first-year Grambling State coach Rod Broadway took the Tigers to the Western Division title and a berth in the SWAC Championship Game. This year, GSU looks to take the final step toward the SWAC Championship. The Tigers ranked third in the SWAC in scoring, and fourth in total offense. RB Frank Warren was the conference Freshman of the Year in 2007, finishing second in the league with 901 yards rushing and fi ve touchdowns. Defensively, Grambling State led the SWAC in takeaways with 38, including a conference-best 23 fumble recoveries. GSU was +15 in turnover margin last year. T he Wolfpack is coming off a 6-7 season that included an appearance in the New Mexico Bowl. Of that loss total, five were by a touchdown or less, including a pair of two-point losses to WAC rivals Hawai’i and Boise State, the latter in four overtimes.
SHAW at ALBANY STATE
The Defending CIAA Champs will travel to perennial powerhouse Albany State in what is being billed as the “CIAA vs. SIAC Showdown.” Both teams were NCAA Playoff participants in 2007 and are considered favorites in their respective conferences in 2008. Shaw is the CIAA favorite to win the Western Division and defend its title. Albany State has been picked second behind Defending SIAC Champion Tuskegee. The Bears return most of its top-ranked Defense from 2007 including BoxToRow.com/BASN All-America DL Louis Ellis. The 6-foot-3, 295 pound Ellis is a disruptive force and a matchup problem for any offensive line. Linemate Martellus Braxton also returns to give Shaw one of the country’s finest defensive lines. Offensively, the Bears return firepower including tailbacks Alan Atwater and Raymond Williams. Albany State also returns a talented defense with DL Develle Miller and DBs Terry McGhee and Mario Fuller earning preseason all-conference honors. The Bears have high hopes of repeating as CIAA Champs and getting back into the NCAA Playoffs. After coming from nowhere to win the CIAA Championship in 2007, Shaw will now wear the proverbial bullseye on its back.
TENNESSEE STATE at ALABAMA A&M
The Tigers went 1-2 against the SWAC last season (lost vs. Alabama A&M, lost at Southern, beat Jackson State). TSU opens the season with the same three SWAC opponents this season, hosting Southern on Sept. 6 and facing Jackson State in Memphis on Sept. 13. Alabama A&M has 14 starters back from last season’s 8-3 team, which just missed out on a return trip to the SWAC Championship Game. In 2007, the Bulldogs led the SWAC (22nd in the nation) in scoring offense, second in rushing offense, and third in passing offense, and first in total offense in the SWAC.
Defensively, they return the nation’s co-leader in interceptions, DB Al Donaldson (a BTRC/BASN All-America selection), who picked off nine passes in 2007.
SOUTHERN at HOUSTON
The Jaguars return 14 starters from last year’s team, including SWAC preseason Offensive Player of the Year in QB Bryant Lee, who returns to guide one of the SWAC’s most explosive units. SU was fourth in the SWAC in scoring offense, fourth in rushing offense, first in passing offense (23rd in nation), fi rst in passing effi ciency (148.72 – 13th in the nation), and second in total offense. Kevin Sumlin will make his debut as head coach of the Cougars. He inherits a team that went 8-5 last season and played in the Texas Bowl. The Cougars return 14 starters from a year ago from a team that won six of their last seven games to earn a bowl bid.
ALABAMA STATE at FAMU
ASU won their first four games in 2007, then dropped their next five, before splitting their final two games. The Hornets return 16 starters and 70 letterman from last year’s squad, which finished 3rd in the SWAC Eastern Division. Alabama State lead the SWAC in rushing yards per game last year. Only Jackson State ran the ball more in the SWAC than Alabama State (467 – 461). Joe Taylor begins his first season at the Rattler helm. Taylor takes over FAMU after 16 seasons as head coach at Hampton, where he was 136-49-1, winning four Black College National titles. Taylor, who was also head coach at Howard and Virginia Union, has a 197-78-4 career record. FAMU posted a 3-8 mark in 2007, including a loss to Southern, 33-27, its lone SWAC opponent of the year, in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge.
J.C. SMITH at NORTH CAROLINA
The Golden Bulls will look to extend the Aggies’ losing streak in both schools’ season opener. JCSU will look to bounce back from last season’s 3-7 campaign. Three-year starter QB Carlton Richardson will lead the offense. Tailbacks Kevin Allen and Archie Barrow will join Richardson in the backfield. All-CIAA WR Jeremy Franklin will be Richardson’s top target. The Aggies were picked ninth in the MEAC.
TEXAS SOUTHERN vs. PRAIRIE VIEW at Houston
Johnnie Cole returns to his alma mater as head coach, looking to restore the Tigers to prominence. TSU went winless in 2007 but has high hopes to be a surprise team in the conference. That hope is built around QB Bobby Reid, a Houston native who transfered home after starting 27 games at Oklahoma State. The Panthers posted a 7-3 record in 2007, their first winning season since 1976 and their highest win total since 1964. They return 15 starters to this year, including 2007 SWAC Defensive Player of the Year and BTRC/BASN All-America selection, LB Zach East. Prairie View A&M was led by their defense, which led the conference (3rd in the nation) in scoring defense, third in passing defense, and third in total defense (13th in nation).
CHOWAN at ELIZABETH CITY
After a magical 2006 season which saw ECSU make the NCAA Playoffs, the Vikings came back down to Earth with a 5-5 record; finishing out of the Championship Game picture. The Vikings’ hope will hinge on the play of QB Curtis Rich. In 2006, Rich threw for 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns and led ECSU to the Eastern Division Title. In 2007 however, Rich threw for a slim 415 yards in an injury-plagued year. He will look to experienced targets in WR Sean Thomas and TE Karvin Gwaltney. Chowan will be making its debut in CIAA Football on Saturday. The Hawks are experienced offensively with nine starters returning. Four of five starters return on the offensive line, where OL Melvin Rodgers will lead the way for the group. Defensively, the Vikings will be led by DB Justin Hamilton and DL Todd Irving. This is the CIAA Opener for both teams.