The kickoff to the 2017 season could not have gone better for Tennessee State and Howard. Both got their first wins ever over FBS teams in stunning fashion!
TSU went into Atlanta and spoiled the opening of Georgia State’s new football digs – the former home of the Atlanta Braves – in a 17-10 upset win Thursday night.
Howard travelled out to Las Vegas Saturday evening and came away with a 43-40 win over UNLV, a win so big that ESPN billed it as the “greatest upset in college football history!” The Bison, who got their first opening day win in over a decade, were 45.5-point underdogs. And as we indicated last week, quarterbacks were much of the story.
In Atlanta, Florida transfer Treon Harris demonstrated why he spent two years leading the SEC’s Gators as he ran (11 carries, 91 yards, 1 TD), passed (12 of 25, 145 yds.) and generally befuddled GSU defenders. The TSU defense meanwhile forced four turnovers and held the Panthers to 49 rushing yards in 29 attempts.
For Howard, freshman quarterback Caylin Newton – who does not want to be known just as Cam’s little brother – was the difference maker as he rushed for 190 yards including 52- and 4-yard scoring jaunts and passed for 140 yards (15-26-1) and one score in the win. The Bison, in their debut under new head coach Mike London, rushed for a whopping 309 yards!
Other big winners were Alcorn State (50-21 over Miles), North Carolina A&T (45-3 over Gardner-Webb), Bowie State (48-7 over Seton Hill), Winston-Salem State (34-31 over UNCPembroke), Albany State (34-13 over Valdosta State) and Cheyney (56-28 over Lincoln (Pa.).
Tennessee State (1-0) follows up its big win with a traditional date Saturday (6 p.m. on Fox Sports 1) in Memphis at the Southern Heritage Classic vs. longtime rival Jackson State. JSU (0-1) is coming off a 63-0 thrashing at TCU. Howard (1-0) heads to Ohio to take on Kent State (0-1) Saturday (3:30 p.m. on ESPN3). Kent State is smarting from a 56-3 whipping administered by defending BCS champion Clemson Saturday. The Eagles have also not forgotten a four overtime home loss last season to fellow MEAC member N. C. A&T.
A CIAA Championship Game rematch goes down in Winston-Salem Saturday (4 p.m. streamed on ESPN3) as defending South Division and league champ Winston-Salem State (1-0) hosts North Division titleist Bowie State (1-0).
The two played for the league title back in November with WSSU emerging from a shootout with a 43-33 win. Expect similar fireworks this time around.
BSU racked up 599 total yards and QB Amir Hall threw for 361 yards and five scores in Saturday’s win. WSSU got 230 rushing yards and TD jaunts of 40, 1 and 59 yards from RB Kerrion Moore in its win Thursday. In other games to watch, perennial SIAC contenders Tuskegee and Albany State tangle in Phenix City, Alabama Saturday (5 p.m., ESPN3).
Three SWAC contenders have tough dates. Defending SWAC and BCSP national champ Grambling State (0-1), coming off a 43-14 loss at Tulane, hosts (6 p.m.) Northwestern State (0-1). Alcorn State (1-0) steps up to play (7:30 p.m.) at FBS Conference USA foe Florida International (0-1) while Southern (0-0) plays in Hattiesburg, Ms. against another C-USA program, Southern Miss (0-1).
Out of the MEAC, Bethune-Cookman (0-1) is at (7 p.m.) Southeast Louisiana (0-1) from the FBS Sun Belt Conference while SC State hosts (6 p.m.) Charleston Southern out of the FCS Big South Conference.