Week One of HBCU football has come and gone, and you get the feeling that a wild ride is just getting started.
The story of the season so far has been North Carolina A&T. The defending MEAC champs, Celebration Bowl winners and national champs in the HBCU ranks topped their upset of Jacksonville State with an even bigger win against East Carolina on Sunday.
A&T’s 28-23 win over its in-state FBS foe was perhaps its biggest yet, as it came against a program that spurned many of the players who now wear the blue and gold.
The Aggies went toe-to-toe with the Pirates and reinforced to the rest of the FCS that they are no longer just MEAC or HBCU good. They appear to have a team capable of making a sustained run in the FCS playoffs if for some reason they were not able to win the conference crown and go to the Celebration Bowl. This week, they will face a Gardner-Webb team it handled to start its now 14-game win streak last season.
The “No Huddle” takes you around week one of Black College Football including NCAT’s big upset over ECU, the Labor Day Classic between Tuskegee and Alabama State and much more.
And while A&T is riding high right now, the Celebration Bowl isn’t guaranteed. Especially not when Howard nearly pulled off another FBS upset of its own. HU nearly went on the road and shocked Ohio, ultimately falling on the short end of a 38-32 score.
Even in defeat, though, the strides that the program has made with Mike London as coach and Caylin Newton at quarterback are truly amazing. Newton compiled better than 500 yards of offense in the first game of his sophomore season and looks to have made a big leap as a passer. HU will face a Kent State team it nearly got the better of after last year’s UNLV win, so don’t be surprised if it happens again.
Over in the SWAC, Prairie View A&M picked up the biggest win last week with its 40-24 takedown of MEAC contender North Carolina Central. It was just the fourth win for the conference in the series against their neighbors to the east, but more importantly, it was proof that Week Zero’s performance against Rice was no fluke.
Quarterback Jalen Morton and running back Dwonya Tucker flashed the kind of talent similar to what made DeVante Kincade and Martez Carter so deadly in new head coach Eric Dooley’s offense at Grambling. They face a tall task against Sam Houston State, but whatever the result, this looks like a team to watch in the SWAC.
A&T wasn’t the only HBCU to pull off an upset of a higher-level opponent. Morehouse came into Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s newly renovated stadium and came out with a 34-30 win over the SWAC school.
It’s been a while since Morehouse has been a contender in the SIAC, meanwhile, UAPB has lost to DII and NAIA teams over the past couple of seasons, so it is hard to tell just how much you can read into that win.
Still, it’s a nice feather in the cap for Morehouse.
Tuskegee, who has beaten Florida A&M, Jackson State and Alabama State over the past couple of seasons, nearly did it again in Week One. ‘Skegee out-muscled and outplayed rival ASU for the first three-and-a-half quarters before caving in the fourth and overtime to fall 26-20. It will have to lick its wounds quickly and rebound as it faces an Albany State team it lost to early last season.
Tuskegee jumps out to an early lead before Alabama State storms back to steal the game in OT. From Montgomery, Alabama.
Over in the CIAA, non-conference wins were few and far between. Virginia Union held off Seton Hill 34-28 in overtime. This week it will take on Carson-Newman, one of the most consistent programs in Division II football.
Winston-Salem State came up with a solid non-conference win as well, beating UNC-Pembroke 23-20 on a Sunday miracle via a touchdown catch by Kerrion Moore similar to the mystical “Immaculate Reception.” This week it will host a Catawba squad it defeated two years ago on the road. A 2-0 start would be huge for the Rams, who figure to have a tough three-games against CIAA Northern division opponents in the upcoming weeks.
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