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Your BASN Guide To HBCU Football: Week 14
By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
NEW HAVEN (BASN) — For the fourth time in the last two years, the Braves of Alcorn State and the Tigers of Grambling State will be looking across at each other in another meaningful football contest.
While Fred McNair’s two-time defending champion Braves (5-5, 5-4 SWAC) are seeking to become the first Eastern Division squad to win three straight crowns since the SWAC Championship Game was instituted in 1999, they’ll have their hands full with the Tigers.
GSU enters Saturday’s championship game at Houston not only as the SWAC’s hottest team but one of the hottest teams in all of college football. They’ve scored at least 40 points in five of their last six contests — that includes last weekend’s 52-30 dismantling of Southern in the Bayou Classic.
After a tough 31-21 loss to Arizona back in September, Broderick Fobbs’ squad has run the table to their current 9-1 mark (9-0 SWAC). One of those wins was a 43-18 victory over the Braves at Eddie G. Robinson Memorial Stadium which came just two weeks following the Arizona loss.
The victory over Alcorn State proved to be a coming-out party for Grambling quarterback Devante Kincade. The SWAC’s Offensive Player of the Year, Kincade accounted for six touchdowns (5 passing, 1 rushing) and 458 yards of total offense in the win.
On the season, the transfer from Ole Miss ranks third in the FCS and first in the SWAC in passing efficiency (171.6) and is first in the conference in completion percentage (65.2), passing yards per game (263.3) and total offensive yards per game (290.4).
Kincade boasted 28 touchdown passes to just three interceptions, and posted two games where he threw for at least 400 yards and five scores or better this season. The first was the aforementioned game against Alcorn while the second came in an October contest against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Lest you think Kincade has been doing all the heavy lifting for the Tigers’ offense, think again. Running back Martez Carter appears to be peaking at the right time, as he has rushed for 100 yards or better in each of the Tigers’ last two games.
Dubbed as “Mr. Excitement”, the junior tailback has averaged 12 yards per carry over that time and has five total scores and three plays of 60 yards or more. The majority of his team-leading 526 rushing yards have come during that same stretch.
In fact, Grambling State is the only team in the nation that holds the distinction of fielding a top-5 scoring offense (44.0 PPG; 4th) and top-5 scoring defense (16.4 PPG; 5th). The defense is led by the SWAC’s Defensive Player of the Year, senior lineman Donovan McCray.
McCray anchored the front four of a Tigers defensive unit that led the SWAC in most every statistical category and ranked fourth in FCS in points allowed (16.4), as well as ranked first nationally in red zone defense (.577). McCray made 28 total stops – 11.5 for loss — with five sacks, three fumble recoveries, a blocked kick and a safety recorded.
BETTER THAN THE RECORD
Despite the 5-5 mark this season, Alcorn State is seeking to become just the second team to win three straight SWAC Championship games. The only team to do it thus far? the 1999-2001 Grambling State Tigers.
The last time ASU won three straight SWAC titles came in 1968 through 1970.
In fact, of the SWAC teams that have played in multiple SWAC Championship Games, Alcorn State is the only team that has yet to lose in the contest. While we’ve talked about the explosiveness of Grambling’s offense, Alcorn State’s attack is no slouch.
Quarterback Noah Johnson has accounted for 12 touchdowns in his past three games. This stretch was highlighted by a near record-breaking performance when he was responsible for eight total scores — including seven passing scores — in Alcorn State’s 61-7 win over Mississippi Valley on Nov. 12.
Rushing wise, ASU’s attack comes into the game firing on all cylinders, as the Braves have rolled up at least 255 rushing yards or better in each of their last four contests. Alcorn was held to 168 total yards rushing — its third-lowest output of the year — during the regular-season meeting with Grambling.
A lot has to do with ASU’s talented offensive line. Their nine sacks surrendered ranks them among the top 10 nationally in pass protection. That will be tested by Grambling’s aggressive defense, which ranks fourth in the nation in sacks this season (32).
Defensively ASU is led by All-SWAC performers, senior linebacker Darien Anderson, and senior defensive back Eric Foster. Anderson earned All-Conference recognition for the second straight year after being named to the Second-Team last season.
He also ranks fourth in FCS in sacks with 1.00 per outing. He’s on the Buck Buchanan Watch List which is awarded to the best defensive player in FCS. In addition to his sacks, Anderson is also 14th in FCS in tackles for a loss (1.7).
As for Foster, he ranked top-10 in the SWAC in passes defended. He’s wrapped up 41 tackles on the season and has also forced a fumble. Foster has recorded a pair of interceptions this year against Alabama A&M and Prairie View A&M. He posted a season-high eight tackles at PVAMU.
One other thing to watch for, ASU has averaged 43.5 points per game in the SWAC Championship, which is by far the best such per-game outing in the game’s history. Last year’s performance was one for the record books, as Alcorn set new championship game records for points (49), rushing yards (411) and total offense (613).
The game, scheduled for 3 pm CT, will be seen live on ESPNU. The winner will meet N.C. Central in the 2nd annual Celebration Bowl in Atlanta on December 17th.
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.