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Your BASN Guide To HBCU Football: Week 13
By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
NEW HAVEN (BASN) — As we enter Phase Three of Championship Saturdays in HBCU football, it’s very appropriate that three key games are being highlighted for Thanksgiving weekend.
While two of the contests are NCAA playoff games, the other game will help fill the final slot of the SWAC Championship Game set for Houston next weekend. And of course, the winner of that game will meet N.C. Central in the Celebration Bowl later in the month.
One other contest of note will take place on Thanksgiving Day in Montgomery, Alabama as the Hornets of Alabama State will host Miles College in 93rd Annual Turkey Day Classic at ASU Stadium.
Alabama State (3-7) will look toward continued success against the Golden Bears, whom it defeated 26-7 in last year’s Turkey Day Classic.
They’ll aim to tighten their discipline as ASU committed a season-high 16 penalties for 216 yards in their last game, a 21-0 defeat at the SWAC’s top team Grambling State back on November 12th.
The Golden Bears (5-4) are coming off a 13-10 loss to Tuskegee at Legion Field, in which they gave up the winning touchdown with 1:12 remaining in the fourth quarter on a two-yard touchdown run.
The Hornets have lost four games this season by seven points or fewer including three games by four points or fewer. Kourtney Berry has long been a force at the linebacker spot for Alabama State, and his performances during the Turkey Day Classic have been no different.
The senior has averaged eight tackles per game in each of his first three Turkey Day Classics — a game that he and his fellow senior class have never tasted defeat in.
The game, slated for 3 pm CT, can be seen live on ESPN3/WatchESPN.com.
Last week, it was the Aggie-Eagle Classic. This Saturday, it’s Southern (8-2) vs. Grambling State (8-1) in the Bayou Classic at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans with the SWAC’s Western Division crown on the line.
Both the Jags and Tigers are the last two undefeated teams left in league play (8-0) and have been on a collision course all season. Grambling (43.1 ppg.) and Southern (40.8 ppg.) are 1-2 in scoring offense, 1-2 in scoring defense (GSU, 14.9 ppg., SU 25.9 ppg.), 1-2 in total offense (GSU 500.6 ypg., SU 473.9) and 1-2 in pass offense (GSU 298.7 ypg., SU 265.2 ypg.).
One can look no further than the field generals in regards to who orchestrates these offensive juggernauts. Grambling’s Devante Kincade leads the passing stats (261.1 ypg., 27 TDs, 3 ints.) followed by Southern’s Austin Howard (246.0 ypg., 26 TDs, 7 ints.).
The signal callers are also 1-2 in passing efficiency and in total offense. While both quarterbacks have been stalwarts all season, the difference Saturday could be Southern’s all-world running back Lenard Tillery.
The senior continued his exceptional season as he broke a 67-year old school record for most rushing yards in a season. Tillery’s 1,431 yards to this point in the season bested the old high mark by Southern’s Odie Posey, which was set in 1949.
He’s had some of his better performances in the Bayou Classic. The senior averages 122 yards on the ground per contest and has scored in every incarnation of the rivalry game that he’s played in.
The game will be carried live on the NBC Sports Network beginning at 4 pm CT.
The Eagles of N.C. Central last won back-to-back league crowns in 2005 and 2006 when they were still in the CIAA. Who was NCCU’s head coach during those seasons?
North Carolina A&T received its first-ever at-large bid to the NCAA FCS playoffs when it was announced the Aggies will play the Richmond Spiders in a first-round matchup on Saturday at E. Claiborne Robins Stadium in Richmond, Va.
The Aggies (9-2) will play in the NCAA playoffs for the fifth time in school history and for the first time since 2003. The Aggies are 1-4 all-time in the playoffs with their only win coming in 1999 when they defeated No. 1 Tennessee State.
It was nine years ago when the Aggies were in the midst of a 27-game losing streak. It was only four years ago when the Aggies were mired in NCAA penalties for a low academic progress rate score. Now the Aggies will head to the postseason in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the 1991 and ‘92 seasons.
N.C. A&T’s body of work includes a win over FBS Kent State on Sept. 10. After losing to FBS Tulsa the following the week, the Aggies won seven straight games. Their only other loss came to nationally-ranked N.C. Central in the regular-season finale.
The Aggies have been nationally-ranked all season in both the FCS STATS and NCAA Coaches polls. Before their loss to NCCU, the Aggies were ranked No. 9 in both polls. They were also the consensus No. 1 team in most HBCU football polls as well.
Richmond is a familiar opponent to the MEAC having played Norfolk State this season and Hampton in 2015 and 2014. The Spiders played host to Morgan State in the first round of the 2014 FCS Playoffs and Hampton in the first round of the 2005 playoffs.
This will be the 11th FCS playoff appearance for the Spiders, seven of which have come in the past 12 seasons. That mark is the eighth-most nationally over that span.
For the second straight season, Tuskegee will reach the second round of the NCAA playoffs. The seventh-seeded Golden Tigers (9-2) spotted Newberry an early 3-0 before a 21-point outburst in the second quarter gave them a 21-10 lead at the half.
The game would see-saw in the second half, but TU would eventually outlast the Wolves with a 35-33 victory. It was part of a trend on the day as all the lower seeds in Super Region II would win as well.
Offensively, redshirt freshman running back Kenny Gant put up 139 yards on just 18 carries. His total helped the Golden Tigers narrowly miss 200 for the day, as they finished with 195 yards on the day as a team.
Defensively, junior safety Jonah McCutcheon made a pair of big plays for the Golden Tigers as he intercepted a pass with just 76 seconds remaining.
But it was the play in the back of the end zone where he jumped over the taller Newberry receiver to knock the two-point conversion and allowed Tuskegee to hold a 28-26 lead in the fourth quarter.
With the victory, the Golden Tigers will travel again this week, this time to sixth-seeded North Greenville – a team that upset third-seeded Florida Tech on the road Saturday.
The game scheduled for 12 noon ET, will be played at Younts Stadium in Tigerville, S.C.
Current A&T head coach Rod Broadway led the Eagles to back-to-back CIAA championships in 2005 and 2006.
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at email@example.com.