Only two games are on the black college football schedule Saturday as the season winds down to its final weeks. And both games could lead to more. First up in Carrollton, Georgia Saturday at 12 noon, 10-2 Tuskegee looks to advance to the NCAA Div. II Final Four when the Golden Tigers travel to Super Region II top seed West Georgia (11-1) for a quarterfinal matchup.
And later Saturday (3 p.m.) down in Houston, Texas, Grambling State (9-2), winners of the SWAC West Division, takes on East Division champ Alcorn State (8-3) with the SWAC championship and a berth in the Dec. 19 Celebration Bowl in Atlanta on the line. Tuskegee wins again The Tuskegee Golden Tigers and head coach Willie Slater, seeded sixth in the NCAA Div. II Super Region II, are showing that they more than belong in the playoffs.
After getting a 26-16 first round road win over third-seed Catawba, the first victory in Div. II postseason history for Tuskegee, the Tigers followed it up with a thrilling, last-minute 35-31 second round road win at second seed North Alabama Saturday. They now get to play for the region title and a spot in the national semifinals against the region’s top seed, the West Georgia Wolves, again on the road.
If records against common opponents determine the outcome of games, Tuskegee wouldn’t have gotten this far. The Tigers lost games to both Miles (26-23) and UNC Pembroke (29-17) while North Alabama handily beat both. Ditto for Catawba, who also had a win over UNCP. There’s more common opponents this week. UWG is 4-0 against the teams Tuskegee has faced. The Wolves beat Catawba (44-13), Miles (33-7), Clark Atlanta (56-0) and North Alabama (31-10), for whatever that’s worth. Tuskegee beat CAU 26-0.
But head coach Willie Slater has Tuskegee playing with a confidence that belies the apparent discrepancy of success against common opponents. The Tigers were dominant, rushing for 258 yards and putting up 484 total yards against UNA while surrendering just 288 yards (see PLAYOFF RECAP). If not for five turnovers – four interceptions and a lost fumble – a blocked field goal and two blocked PATs, the game could have been a rout.
One has to believe that Slater’s success as an offensive coordinator at North Alabama, where he was a part of three national championship staffs, has a lot to do with the Golden Tigers’ close calls in trips to the 2013 and 2014 playoffs and their success this season. Regardless, West Georgia, champion of the Gulf South Conference, is likely to be a stiffer challenge. The only blemish on its schedule is a 28-26 decision to Florida Tech when the Wolves were ranked the top team in all of Div. II.
They average 38 points per game and rush for 236.3 yards per game and 5.3 yards per carry. Freshman Devontae Jackson is the leading rusher with 975 yards and seven TDs. QB Dallas Dickey has run for 529 yards and four scores while throwing for 1,72 yards and 17 TDs. Dickey completes 62% of his passes. UWG rushed for 292 yards in its 27-20 win last week over Valdosta State. Rematch to determine SWAC champion
The first time Alcorn State and Grambling State met this year, on Oct. 17 in Lorman, Mississippi, it was Alcorn State’s homecoming and the Braves and over 30,000 of their faithful went home disappointed. After Alcorn scored with no time on the clock to pull within 35-34, Grambling’s Jamison Goins broke through and blocked Haiden McRainey’s PAT attempt giving the G-Men a 35-34 victory. Expect another barnburner. Alcorn State, the defending SWAC champions, outgained Grambling 434 to 343 yards and ran 91 plays to GSU’s 57. The Braves led 28-14 at the half before being outscored 21-6 in the second half. They lost three fumbles.
Alcorn senior QB John Gibbs Jr., the reigning league offensive player of the year, was hurt late in that game and has not played since. His availability for the title game is uncertain. Meanwhile, sophomore Lenorris Footman has ably filled in, leading the Braves to a 4-1 record while running for 860 yards and 10 TDs and passing for 760 yards and seven scores. Grambling counters with perhaps this year’s SWAC offensive player of the year, senior quarterback Johnathan Williams. Williams leads the SWAC averaging 265.4 passing yards per game with a league-best 36 TDs and is tops in total offense (296.8 ypg.). Sophomore Chad Williams tops SWAC receivers with 59 receptions for 986 yards and 10 TDs.
Alcorn leads the league in rushing at almost 300 yards per game (299.7) led by Footman and Darryan Ragsdale (956 yards, 7 TDs). Footman averages a whopping 8.0 yards per carry while Ragsdale checks in at 7.6 ypc. Grambling is third in rushing stats at 193.9 ypg. The top rushers are Martez Carter (851 yards, 9 TDs) and Justin Kelly with 687 yards and three TDs. Grambling (43.2 ppg., ) and Alcorn (39.3) are 2-3 in scoring offense. Alcorn State is tops in scoring defense surrendering 21.1 points per game while Grambling is third (31.2 ppg.).