Here are the story lines on this week’s ‘Games to Watch’ as the second month of the 2015 gridiron season begins.
– BCSP No. 2 Bethune-Cookman at BCSP No. 9 N. Carolina Central (Durham, N.C., 4 p.m. – live on ESPN3, tape delay on ESPNU) This is the first 2015 showdown between two of the unprecedented five teams that tied for the MEAC title last season. Bethune-Cookman (3-1, 1-0 MEAC) comes in after getting its first conference win in a 42-12 decision over Savannah State Saturday.
It will be the first conference game for NCCU (1-2, 0-0) and comes after a bye week. The teams met Nov. 1 in Daytona Beach, Fla. last year with B-CU pulling out a 34-20 win. NCCU led 20-13 entering the fourth quarter but gave up 21 fourth-quarter points on scoring runs by running back Anthony Jordan. The Wildcats finished with 334 rushing yards. Larry Brihm was at the helm of the Wildcat offense in last season’s game.
Quentin Williams, who has alternated with Brihm over the last two seasons, will start Saturday but Brihm will play, said head coach Terry Sims Tuesday on the MEAC Teleconference. Jordan and Jones, who had a 50-yard scoring run last week and ran for 117 yards in last year’s game, return in the B-CU backfield. Sophomore wideout Jawill Davis (15 rec., 377 yards, 22.3 ypc., 3 TDs) is the ‘Cats chief receiving threat.
NCCU enters its first game without the services of two key starters – all-American defensive back/kick returner Mike Jones and transfer wide receiver Khalil Stinson – who both were lost for the season with injuries during the Eagles’ 39-14 loss to Florida International two weeks ago. Perhaps more important is who will start for NCCU at quarterback. Preseason all-MEAC selection Malcolm Bell has struggled so far this season, throwing just one touchdown pass while completing 54.9% of his passes with one pick.
He was sacked twice and threw an interception against FIU and was pulled early in the second quarter. Quinn Billerman finished out the game completing 15 of 28 passes for 149 yards with two picks. NCCU head coach Jerry Mack said Tuesday on the MEAC Teleconference that Bell will start Saturday. He also said fans will be “pleasantly surprised” with replacements for Jones and Stinson.
– BCSP No. 4 Grambling State at Jackson State (Jackson, Ms., 6 p.m.) The annual battle between SWAC rivals comes after Grambling (2-2, 2-0 SWAC W) put up 70 points in a win over Prairie View last week and Jackson State (1-3, 1-1 SWAC E) got its first win of the season over Texas Southern (34-30). The teams come in with two of the most prolific passers and receivers in the SWAC and black college football. Jackson State QB LaMontiez Ivy (328.2 ypg., 10 TDs) has black college leader Daniel Williams (30 rec., 129.2 ypg., 4 TDs) as his go-to guy. Grambling QB Johnathan Williams (288.5 ypg., 13 TDs) counters with Chad Williams (26 rec., 106.2 ypg., 4 TDs). Under Williams’s guidance, GSU is averaging 42.8 points per game while JSU is putting up 26.0 ppg. Both teams are near the bottom in SWAC scoring defense however with GSU giving up 48.2 ppg. and JSU surrendering 46.2 ppg. All signs point to a high-scoring shootout!
– Chowan at Winston-Salem State (1:30 p.m., Winston-Salem, N.C.) Chowan of the CIAA North is at traditional power and defending South Division champ Winston-Salem State in an intriguing game that could go a long way in determining whether the Hawks are true contenders for the league championship. The game is one of six CIAA North vs. South tussles on tap Saturday.
Chowan (3-1, 0-0 CIAA N) has been impressive in wins over Fayetteville State (41-31), Delaware State of the MEAC (31-30) and last week’s 49-0 shutout of Saint Augustine’s. QB Randall Dixon is averaging 181.3 passing yards per game and has thrown for nine TDs with just four interceptions. RB Tyree Lee rushed for 223 yards and three TDs vs. St. Aug’s and is averaging 103 rushing yards per game.
Conversely, WSSU (1-3, 0-0 CIAA S) has been struggling, dropping its first three games before defeating Elizabeth City State 17-10 for its first win last week. Head coach Keinus Boulware turned to freshman Rashad Cooper at quarterback and he delivered a winning performance, throwing for 199 yards and two scores vs. ECSU. The Hawks are scoring at a 31.0 points per game clip, second in the conference, while the Rams are at the bottom of the league scoring just 10 points per game.
– BCSP No. 7 South Carolina State at Furman (7 p.m., Greenville, S.C., live on ESPN3) S. C. State (2-1, 1-0 MEAC) travels to 2-2 Furman Saturday evening in a non-conference matchup. SCSU was off this week while Furman defeated VMI, 24-21. SCSU defeated Furman 17-7 in late September last year. Furman lost its season opener 38-35 to Coastal Carolina, a team that defeated SC State 41-14 on Sept. 12.
Last time out the Bulldogs were clicking on all cylinders in a 36-0 shutout win over Florida A&M. The offense rolled up 625 total yards as freshman QB Caleb York threw for 230 yards and two TDs, RB Jalen Simmons ran for 168 yards and WR Mykal Moody caught seven balls for 109 yards and a score. The defense was led sophomore linebacker Darius Leonard who had 16 tackles.
– BCSP No. 8 Tuskegee at UNC-Pembroke (2 p.m., Pembroke, N.C.) Tuskegee (3-0), the only undefeated team left in black college football, ventures into CIAA territory to face a UNC-Pembroke team (3-1) that has wins over three CIAA South teams (Winston-Salem State, Shaw and Fayetteville State). – BCSP No. 6 North Carolina A&T at Hampton (1 p.m. in Hampton, Va.)
In its first conference game, A&T (2-1, 0-0 MEAC), coming off a bye week, faces a Hampton (2-2, 1-1) team smarting from a loss to rival Norfolk State. This is a ‘trap game’ for the Aggies. – BCSP No. 1 Alcorn State at Arkansas-Pine Bluff (4 p.m. in Little Rock, Ark.) The Braves (3-1, 2-0 SWAC E) travel to Little Rock looking to keep the Golden Lions (1-3, 0-2) winless in league play.