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CSN MEAC Review: Tussling
By Paul L. Thorpe, CSN MEAC Review Columnist
The MEAC participated in four games last weekend with two contests against nonconference, in-state rivals. The conference record this last week was 1-1 with the one loss against an FBS team.
Overall, the MEAC record for the year is on the winning side, especially counting triumphs against Winston-Salem State (going through its transition back to Division II). The MEAC now is in the heart of its schedule with only two to three more games being played against nonconference schools before the playoffs.
Winston-Salem State – 3 at Howard – 7 10/3
The Bison came out ahead in another close game held at Greene Stadium in Washington, D.C. This game would have to be considered the most boring game held in the MEAC last week with no points scored before halftime and neither team generating 300 yards of offense. Actually, both punters got more in yardage than their respective offenses.
That being said, Patrick Wolff, Howard’s junior punter, from Atlantic City, N.J., gets my vote for player of the game (the punter has to get some respect every once in awhile, right?). In a game that had low attendance, Howard did what it had to do to grab a victory and improve its record.
Morgan State – 24 at Bethune-Cookman – 13 10/3
The Bears traveled to Daytona Beach, Fla., and handed out another loss to Bethune-Cookman. Morgan State took control early and ended the first half with a 17-7 lead. Both teams scored in the third quarter to make it 24 - 13. Morgan State’s stifling defense made certain this score stood until the end of the game bringing BCU’s record to 0-4.
North Carolina Central – 17 at North Carolina A&T – 23 10/3
This game was a lot more interesting than it should have been. NC A&T sprinted to a 17-0 advantage by the middle of the second quarter. The Aggies appeared faster, stronger and more conditioned than the Eagles, but with 60 minutes of play anything can happen. The A&T offense was handcuffed by continual calls against the offensive line for illegal blocking and holding.
Overall, the Aggies were outpenalized getting 110 yards called against them as opposed to only 85 yards against the Eagles. While this might seem insignificant to the untrained reader/fan, penalties turn third and short situations into third and long plus it can potentially expose your defense to longer stints on the field than it’s able to handle. The most damaging of penalties came in the second quarter when the Aggies gave NCCU a fresh set of downs by running into the kicker during a punt. The opportunistic Eagles eventually turned this mistake into a touchdown with only 17 seconds to go in the half.
Both teams were scoreless after coming out of the locker room in the third quarter. The Eagles found a way to manufacture points and scored 10 to tie the game in the fourth quarter against an overworked Aggie defense. After getting the ball back with 2:36 left, NC A&T promptly marched downfield and set up for a makeable field goal that was missed with 11 seconds remaining. A&T kicker Patrick Courtney missed his first kick of the game to send the game into overtime. Both teams missed field goal attempts in the first overtime and then Central’s coach made a strange call on a fourth and long in the second extra session. NCCU tried to convert on fourth down instead of taking its shot at the field goal.
This error might have been a moot point anyway because A&T scored a touchdown with a 24-yard pass to sophomore Wallace Miles. Carlton Fears and Mr. Miles combined for 101 of the 166 passing yards and two touchdowns to lead the Aggies.
South Carolina State – 14 at South Carolina – 38 10/3
Although the Bulldogs lost by several touchdowns they acquitted themselves well in the first half. As I predicted last week, South Carolina State played extremely well early. The Bulldogs and the Gamecocks were stalemated in the first quarter with neither team being able to penetrate the end zone. Both teams scored a touchdown in the second quarter with the Gamecocks also scoring a field goal.
Unfortunately, I also was right about how I envisioned the second half unfolding when USC took complete control in the third quarter by scoring three touchdowns. Another touchdown by USC in the fourth quarter sealed the game. South Carolina State performed like other MEAC teams that faced premier teams this year and played like champions to the end. The touchdown run by South Carolina State junior quarterback Malcolm Long with four seconds left showed the grit that all MEAC opponents should expect from our conference.
COMMENTS ON THIS COLUMN
This weekend, the Thorpe household in Durham, N.C., became divided again as the Aggies took on the Eagles of NCCU. Because Big Paul and Grandma Ann graduated from North Carolina Central University, and I went to a certain MEAC school, there was a little more stress within the house.
I would like to say that this is one of the longest-running rivalries in Black College football, but the truth is there have been so many years where the game has been canceled because there was too much tension (and sometimes physical fights) between fans, players, coaches and yes, even school administrators. I don’t know if it is a dream or a nightmare to put these two schools in the same conference, but starting next year the two schools will have guaranteed meetings in football, basketball, baseball, volleyball, etc. now that NCCU has entered the MEAC.
This year’s edition exceeded all expectations with a come-from-behind challenge from NCCU and a double-overtime victory from NCA&T. In the end, the real MEAC team won … Take that Big Paul!
I was happy to see that the stadium was almost completely full. After berating the Morgan State fans last week, I was concerned that perhaps the recession had affected college football to the point that no MEAC stadium would be full. It was a little disappointing that the game was not sold out, but Aggie Stadium was less than 2,000 short of the 21,500 capacity.
During good economic years, A&T fans generally sell out most of the stadium on their own. It was encouraging to see the NCCU fans drive 55 miles down the road from Durham to attend. This created an interesting phenomenon in which the Eagle fans made up the difference of people to get much closer to the maximum capacity. Good job, NCCU fans. You helped make it another great chapter in the most intense rivalry in Black College football/basketball/whatever (I still say your mascot is nothing but a common barnyard fowl).
THIS WEEK’S PREDICTIONS
The only nonconference matchup this week is between FAMU and Miami University. Winston-Salem State gets a week off after a five-game losing streak to start the year. Here are my predictions for the coming week of MEAC football:
North Carolina A&T – 10 at Morgan State – 14 10/10 @ 1300
There are two closely matched really tough games to predict this week and A&T vs. Morgan State is one of them. Having seen both teams play up close and personal this year, I must say that they match up quite well. If the Aggies regain some focus and play mistake-free ball they can win, however, the Morgan State defense is a group of greedy young men. These guys swarm to the ball like bees to honey.
***Note to the Aggies: Throw the ball away from Morgan State cornerback Darren McKhan. That guy is a pure ball hawk. ***
NC A&T might gain a slight psychological advantage in that the Aggie fans generally descend on away stadiums like a hoard of locust. This year is no different as many A&T fans are excited about th eir resurgent team. This might create an unhealthy situation where A&T fans outnumber the Bear fans on Saturday at Hughes Stadium in Baltimore. Hopefully, the Morgan State faithful will not allow themselves to be embarrassed in this fashion.
South Carolina State 3 35 at Norfolk State – 7 10/10 @ 1300
Unfortunately, the Spartans are scheduled to play SCSU the week after they got beat by the University of South Carolina. The Bulldogs will be looking to unload some frustration after expending maximum effort against the Gamecocks last week and coming away with a loss. Expect NSU to lose this one by at least two touchdowns.
Howard – 14 at Hampton – 17 10/10 @ 1800
This is the traditional “Who’s the real HU?” game. This year’s installment should be an interesting matchup because both squads are evenly matched. The game is tough to call and it should be close, but I expect Hampton to walk away with a victory simply because its back-and-forth style lends itself to the craziness you can expect from this type of grudge match.
Bethune-Cookman – 10 at Delaware State – 35 10/10 @ 1900
DSU gets “medieval” on the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats this week. I still don’t know what is wrong with BCU but expect the Hornets’ coach Lavan to exploit whatever it is. Bethune comes out of this weekend 0-5.
Florida A&M – 28 at Miami – 41 10/10 @ 1900
Miami has the pleasure of hosting the Rattlers this week, and we get the opportunity to see another premier MEAC team play a FBS school. FAMU’s challenge is slightly harder in that it is playing a Hurricane football team that has gelled into a consistent Top 25 BCS ranked contender. Rattler coach Joe Taylor must devise a plan that gets his playmakers into open space as they deal with a quick Miami defense.
The big problem that FCS teams face when playing FBS opponents is simply matching the raw speed at the next level. FAMU’s offense is heavily dependent on the pass and the ability to run past opponents. Coach Taylor will not be able to go with his conventional offensive schemes this week and will need to throw in some “trickeration.”
On defense, the task is theoretically simple: Finish plays in the Miami backfield. The FAMU defensive coordinator must devise schemes that will put the back, side and helmet of Miami’s quarterback on the ground. If Miami’s quarterback ends this game with a relatively clean jersey, then this game will be quite embarrassing. In the end expect this to be a tough game for the Rattlers.
I correctly predicted last week that the score in the Bulldogs-Gamecocks game would be around three touchdowns. I’m going out on a limb this week and I’ll say that FAMU quarterback Curtis Pulley gets the offense rolling and the Hurricanes win by only one or two touchdowns.