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CSN MEAC Review: The Freaks Come Out
By Paul L. Thorpe, CSN MEAC Review Columnist
Wow! What a crazy weekend for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The only game that went according to plan was the South Carolina State – Norfolk State matchup. The Bulldogs pretty much controlled all aspects of football from the coin toss and the only surprise was that the Spartans got to double digits. Bethune-Cookman shocked us all by finally winning a game, Hampton beat down Howard like it stole something, and NCA&T lost to Morgan State by a single point. Even Curtis Blow would have been shocked with all the football freaks that Miami brought out under lights at its stadium.
North Carolina A&T – 6 at Morgan State – 7 10/10
This game was interesting only to the purest lover of defense. The only football game I can remember that was this dull was the Nov. 26, 2007 Monday night NFL “Mud Bowl” with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Miami Dolphins that the Steelers won 3-0. The Aggies fail to close out a game in regulation for the second week in a row due to poor kicking. Aggie kicker, Patrick Courtney, missed every kick he attempted which consisted of three field goal tries and an extra-point miss. The Aggies won the turnover war taking three fumbles and two interceptions from the Bears. In return, NCA&T was stingy and only re-gifted one of those interceptions and none of the fumbles back to Morgan State, but once again Morgan State figures out how to “Get ‘er done” in another tight game.
***Note to A&T Head Coach Lee: I am sure there are some great soccer players at UNC-Greensboro that can get a football through the uprights next year. All it would take is one sports scholarship…
South Carolina State – 37 at Norfolk State – 10 10/10
SC State covers my prediction of two touchdowns with ease and tacks on a couple more points just for fun. Head Coach “Buddy” Pough even had the additional bandwidth to begin preparing for the future by playing backup QB Derrick Wiley a few snaps and giving his star Junior QB #7 – Malcolm Long a rest in the fourth quarter. Speaking of Mr. Long, he definitely is my MEAC standout player of the week with 206 yards, 1 touchdown, and a rating of 159.15 in this game. Since FAMU had its hands full with Miami this week, Malcolm steals top billing from his counterpart in Tallahassee this week.
Howard – 0 at Hampton – 37 10/10
This was the freakiest score I’ve seen this season. Yes, Hampton has a high octane offense that is a threat to score at any moment but Howard has a pretty good defense and offense. What makes it so confusing is that you can’t just point to errors and say “Aha that’s what happened.” Yes, Howard fumbled twice in the second quarter in which Hampton turned into 10 points with a field goal and a touchdown, but that’s just 10 points.
Howard gained less total yardage (117) than Hampton did rushing (256) and passing (205). This complete breakdown in playmaking was a complete surprise. Even if the two victories Howard got were low-scoring affairs against suspect teams (both Georgetown and Winston-Salem State are winless), I would still expect Howard to get at least 200 yards of offense and at a minimum one field goal. As we get into the heart of the season we are starting to see the cream rise, and well, I guess it is clear that Howard isn’t cream this season.
Bethune-Cookman – 9 at Delaware State – 7 10/10
Bethune freaked me out by pulling out its first victory. I’ve been pretty hard on the boys from Daytona Beach this year so they deserve credit for winning against a decent DSU football team. After losing their star Junior QB #8 – Anthony Glaud to an injury, Delaware State became completely unraveled on offense. Bethune-Cookman left all scoring until late in the game and provide additional excitement after the first B-CU touchdown when the PAT was blocked with 14:16 to go in the fourth quarter. This made the game 7 - 6 at that point in favor of DSU. The Wildcats finally pulled ahead when they scored a field goal with 2:12 left. After resisting last-ditch attempts to score by Del State, Bethune came away with a “W.” While it is doubtful B-CU would have won this game without the injury to DSU’s QB, let’s not take anything away from the Wildcats. A win is a win so Bethune football team and fans can celebrate and feel comfortable in knowing that I won’t poke fun at your squad anymore (at least not until next week).
Florida A&M – 16 at Miami – 48 10/10
There were just too many football freaks on the Miami team for there to be any chance for FAMU to have any chance. There was not much to analyze in this game. Basically, a top-ranked FBS team beat a top-ranked MEAC team quite handily. The FAMU players seemed to play with a lot of pride even under tremendous odds so I don’t think this loss will carry over to this week’s game against SC State. Since the overall story line was pretty straight forward here are a few nuances.
Why did FAMU Head Coach Taylor leave star return man #7 – Leroy Vann in the game through the fourth quarter. The 10 kickoff/punt returns he fielded against some brutal Hurricane special teams players was a bit excessive. The worst had to be when he got snatched by the dreads (my dad told me this could happen) and got slammed to the deck. Ouch! To his credit though, each time Mr. Vann picked himself off and trotted over to the sideline with his head high.
Kudos go out to Miami’s head coach Shannon for coaching like a class act. As I have said before you have to run up the score in college football. While Miami’s coach did run up the score, it was impressive was that he could do it in style. Instead of running the same old players through the first half and into the third quarter, he got his starters out early in the second quarter and ran with his third and fourth stringers for the rest of the game. What impressed me the most was the sheer intensity in which all his players played with during the entire game. The Hurricanes are stacked with so many freaks that there are only one or two teams in the country that stand a chance at beating them (like the University of Florida or maybe ‘Bama). Good luck ‘Canes. I hope you win the FBS championship. That would do wonders for the MEAC strength of schedule…
COMMENTS ON THIS COLUMN
I love ESPN 360. With a good Internet connection you can chill out and watch the highlighted MEAC game of the week (this past week it was FAMU and Miami) like it was the Big 10 playing the ACC. By the way, doesn’t FAMU’s Head Coach Joe Taylor look like one of your uncles? I was checking him out on the Internet feed and he looks just like the uncle my dad always hung out with at the family reunion.
THIS WEEK’S PREDICTIONS
There are two nonconference matchups this week: Delaware State vs. Michigan and Bethune-Cookman vs. Savannah State. North Carolina A&T has a bye week and Winston-Salem State gets a week off after a five-game losing streak to start the year. By far, the premier MEAC game for the entire season is this week’s FAMU vs. South Carolina State matchup. Here are my predictions for the coming week of MEAC football.
Howard – 6 at Morgan State – 11 10/15 @ 1930
Who gets the victory this week in a Baltimore versus DC matchup? I have to go with Morgan State for two reasons. First, the Bears know how to win close matchups. Second, Howard just got run over by Hampton. Morgan State wins by less than a touchdown.
Delaware State – 3 at Michigan – 35 10/17 @ 1200
This is the point in the column where I get on a soap box…
Can somebody tell me why DSU is playing Michigan? The two schools have no sort of regional connection. I realize that schedule commitments are made years in advance and therefore the game might have been scheduled shortly after the UM loss to Appalachian State a few years back. If that is the case, then I applaud the AD from Michigan for respecting those crazy Appalachian boys and keeping them off their schedule, however it does not explain why DSU took the game. First, the Hornets sacrificed their mandated game with NC A&T to play Michigan. The MEAC responded to this insult by slapping DSU with a hefty penalty (to be distributed to the Aggies) and automatically giving NCA&T a win against the Hornets. At any rate, Michigan wins massively as it attempts to banish any demons left over from the UM vs. Appalachian State shocker a couple years ago.
Hampton – 35 at Norfolk State – 17 10/17 @ 1300
The Pirates go over the bridge (literally) and face their next-door neighbors, the Spartans of Norfolk State. The beatdown that Hampton laid out to Howard last week forces me to heavily favor it this week. Hampton wins this game by at least two touchdowns.
Florida A&M – ?? at South Carolina State – ?? 10/17 @ 1400
This matchup is what we have all been waiting for. SC State comes in with a balanced offense that makes it extremely hard to build a defensive scheme against. The true star of the Bulldog team this year would have to be Malcolm Long who has grown into a great passer. SC State RB Will Ford has not shown us a single dominating performance like we saw last year in his run to MEAC Player of the Year, but something tells me he is going to “Show and Prove” why he was given conference top honors in this game. While the offense has been great, the SCSU defense has been the revelation of the year. The Bulldogs lost so many key players on defense this year it isn’t even funny but they simply reloaded with more talent.
The Florida A&M Rattlers have a relentless offense that can score through the air at any moment and the defense also has been exceptional. I point to the game against Tennessee State where it held a credible Ohio Valley Conference opponent to just 12 points as proof of the defense’s commitment to winning.
Unfortunately for the Rattlers, SC State comes into the game with a few advantages. First, the game is in Orangeburg, S.C., so you have to believe that 22,000 partisan Bulldog fans will make a huge difference. Second, teams that have balanced pass/run combinations on offense can be lethal. SC State is the epitome of balance this year with 942 yards passing and 751 yards rushing. If you take out the 372 yards that FAMU’s QB scrambled for so far this year, the Rattlers pass/run ration is almost 2 to 1. Finally, if you compare the games of both teams against FBS opponents you have to say that SC State got more style points in their loss against University of South Carolina. Having said all that though you will notice that I am punking out and I offer no prediction on this game. May the best team win. Oh yeah! I’ll be on the sideline in Orangeburg to see this matchup of MEAC titans live and in living color.
Bethune-Cookman – 11 at Savannah State – 6 10/17 @ 1700
Neither team is great, but I will assume the good vibrations that Bethune felt after its victory against Del State carries over into this week. Bethune-Cookman beats Savannah State by more than a field goal but less than a touchdown and improves the MEAC out-of-conference record.