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BASN’S HBCU DESK VOL. X
BASN’S HBCU DESK, VOL X
By Anthony McClean, Editor-in-Chief, Emeritus
NEW HAVEN, CT. (BASN) : As we’re nearing the end of the first full week of November, invariably we’ll start to see and hear advertising and music talking about “the most wonderful time of the year”. With apologies to folks that live for Thanksgiving and or Christmas, us fans and followers of HBCU football would beg to differ.
“The most wonderful time of the year” has already started and will go into another level over next few weeks as the championship portion of the season becomes the focal point. With roughly three weeks to go in the regular season, the final pieces of conference titles are getting a bit clearer in some leagues and still unsettled in others.
Let’s take a bird’s eye view of the remaining conference races in HBCU football.
For the third time in four years, the Golden Rams (6-2, 6-0) of Albany State are heading to the SIAC Championship Game. Their 40-14 win over Benedict College last week as well as Morehouse’s 24-21 victory over Fort Valley State clinched the Eastern Division crown for Mike White’s crew.
Riding a six-game winning streak, ASU will end the regular season against FVSU (6-3, 4-2) this Saturday at 2 p.m. ET in the Fountain City Classic in Columbus, Ga. The Golden Rams lead the conference in scoring defense (13.1 points), total defense (217.5 yards) and against the rush (80.2 yards). They’re second against the pass (137.2 yards) and No. 1 in pass efficiency defense (86.6 rating).
Miles College (6-3, 5-1) and Tuskegee (7-2, 6-0) will meet Saturday to determine the Western Division champ, which will meet Albany State at the Cramton Bowl on Nov. 15 in Montgomery, Ala. Miles defeated the Golden Rams 20-17 in 2011, and after Tuskegee won it in 2012, Albany State captured the conference title with a 17-14 victory over Miles last year.
Two winner-takes-all (i.e. division crowns) showdowns will highlight the CIAA’s final regular season weekend. Winston-Salem State (8-1, 6-0) will travel to Fayetteville State to take on the Broncos (5-4, 5-1) for the Southern Division title at 1:30 p.m. ET.
Winners of seven straight, the Rams are riding the wave of a 30-game CIAA winning streak, and 35 consecutive wins over HBCU’s. FSU has lost the last five meetings against WSSU dating back to 2005. The Broncos haven’t won against the Rams since back-to-back wins in 2003-04.
FSU stumbled out of the gate to begin the season at 0-4, but have won five straight contests including crucial Southern Division matchups to put themselves in position to win the division.
As for the North, Virginia State (7-2, 6-0) is looking to repeat at division champs. However, they’ll have to travel to Richmond and meet their crosstown rivals from Virginia Union (7-2, 5-1) in a backyard brawl that has a trip to the CIAA Championship Game waiting for the winner.
The Trojans are also in the middle of a seven-game winning streak, after opening the season at 0-2. As for the Panthers, they’ve thrived under first-year head coach Mark James. His seven wins sets a school record for a first-year VUU coach. Thomas Harris had six wins in his first season in 1950 and Michael Bailey had six wins in his first season in 2003.
The game will kick-off at 1:30 p.m. ET and it will also be streamed live on www.theciaa.com and live tweeted on Twitter.
Division leader Alcorn State (7-2, 5-1) can clinch the East with a win against Alabama State (4-5, 3-3) this Saturday at Huntsville. Last year, the Hornets spoiled the Braves chances of making the trip to Houston for the SWAC Championship Game by defeating ASU 19-18 at Spinks-Casem Stadium.
The Braves are averaging 45.1 points per game at this season and are holding their opponents to 19 points per game. They’re also averaging 42.5 points per game away from Spinks-Casem Stadium. Alabama A&M comes in ranked 8th in the SWAC in scoring averaging 27.3 points per game and have allowed their opponents to score 32.6 points per contest.
In the West, Grambling State remains the only unbeaten team in division play (7-3, 7-0) following their 38-23 win Thursday night at Mississippi Valley State. The Delta Devils (2-8, 1-7) took the lead early and were up 14-7 after the first quarter. A big second quarter push by GSU gave them the 21-14 lead heading into the break. Despite a late run by MVSU in the fourth quarter, the Tigers were able to hang on for the win.
The five-team logjam (all with just one league loss) at the top of the standings got a little less muddled Thursday might as Bethune Cookman outlasted Norfolk State 13-7 in a nationally televised game at Dick Price Stadium. The Spartans (4-6, 4-2) opened the scoring in the first quarter on Ervin’s 16-yard pass to Chris Lee. Bethune-Cookman cut it to 7-6 midway through the second on Quentin Williams’ 23-yard pass to Jhomo Gordon.
The Wildcats also got a pair of safeties from Rony Barrow and a 24-yard field goal from Ben Noboa. BCC (8-2, 5-1) remains atop the MEAC along with three other teams – Morgan State, North Carolina A&T and South Carolina State — who also have one conference loss. Morgan (5-4, 4-1) travels to Greensboro Saturday to battle North Carolina A&T (7-2, 4-1) while S.C. State (6-3, 4-1) travels to Tallahassee to meet Florida A&M.
The Bulldogs will travel to Baltimore next weekend to meet the Bears.
THE GAME THAT STARTED IT ALL
While we celebrate the great finishes of all four HBCU conferences over the next few weeks, this weekend we also celebrate the two schools that got black college football started. While Johnson C. Smith and Livingstone College won’t likely be part of the postseason this year, it was their football rivalry that was the first ever between two historically black institutions.
The series began on a snowy afternoon just two days after Christmas, on Dec. 27, 1892 on the front lawn of Livingstone’s Old Delta Grove campus in Salisbury. Livingstone’s W.J. Trent scored the only touchdown on a fumble recovery in the game, which featured two 45-minitue halves giving the Blue Bears the apparent win.
The Biddle Institution’s players contested that the snow had covered the field markings and that the ball was recovered out-of-bounds. The official upheld their protest, nullifying the touchdown, giving Biddle (J.C. Smith) the historic 5-0 win. The two schools have played each other 178 times and Saturday’s contest will mark the 6th time playing in the Commemorative Classic since it sprung in 2009.
Livingstone College (5-4, 2-4) is in the midst of its best season since 1998, when the Blue Bears finished 7-4 under head coach Rudy Abrams. The Golden Bulls (2-7, 1-5) are coming off a dramatic last-second homecoming victory last week against St. Augustine’s. The 14-10 win broke a six-game losing streak for JCSU.
J.C. Smith has won the previous five meetings against the Blue Bears and has not surrendered the Commemorative Classic Trophy since the inception of the game in 2009. No current player on the Livingstone roster has experienced a win over the Golden Bulls, with the last Livingstone win in the series coming in a 32-26 decision in 2008.
Kickoff is set to start at 1 p.m. ET at Irwin Belk Complex.