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FAMU’s loss keeps several teams in the running for MEAC title

CIAA, SIAC title games set for Saturday

The race to the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl just got a little more interesting in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) after the No. 1 team in the conference, Florida A&M, lost 31-23 to Howard on Nov. 3.

FAMU (5-1 MEAC, 6-3 overall) entered the game undefeated in conference play, and a win would have clinched a share of the MEAC title while also securing a berth in the Celebration Bowl, Dec. 15 in Atlanta.

The outcome keeps bowl game hopes alive for North Carolina A&T, Bethune-Cookman and South Carolina State, but they all need some assistance to get there. The win also keeps Howard (4-2, 4-4) alive in the race for the MEAC crown, but it, too, will need some help along the way because of its 27-21 homecoming loss to S.C. State.

FAMU’s first-year head coach Willie Simmons believes his team is still in a favorable position.

“We still control our own destiny,” said Simmons. “The guys didn’t want to lose, obviously. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s come down to really the way we probably wanted it against Bethune for the conference championship.”

The Rattlers have two games left on the schedule, against South Carolina State and Bethune-Cookman. The S.C. State game will not count as a conference game, so the Florida Classic could end up being a de facto MEAC championship game.

“The Florida Classic is always the biggest game of the year if you’re a Rattler, but now it has a special meaning and I think the game just got a little more exciting,” said Simmons.

The Bison aren’t down, and, according to sophomore running back Dedrick Parson, the team became closer leading up to the game.

“During the week, we became more of a family and just had more fun with the game. Once we came together for the game, we got the W,” said Parson, who had a season-high 149 rushing yards in the win.

Howard quarterback Caylin Newton finished with three touchdowns, two passing and one running plus a two-point conversion, and he was 15-for-30, for 172 yards and 50 yards rushing.

Howard head coach Mike London called his team’s performance “a complete game,” and he spoke about how important it was to see his team finish a game strongly. “Three of the losses that we had we literally lost in the last possession of the game,” said London. “Our mentality is shifting from just being in it and being close because we want to win.”

FAMU had averaged about 14 points in the second half of its games, but Howard’s defense was able to hold the Rattlers to only six points in the second half. Howard picked off quarterback Ryan Stanley twice and came up with a clutch fourth-down stop at the end of the game.

“We talked about it all week on that it [FAMU] was a very beatable team in how they scored points on people,” said Vincent Brown, Howard’s second-year defensive coordinator. “We felt that we had a pretty good idea on how to kind of slow that down or at least minimize that.”

For the Rattlers, their way to a berth in the Dec. 15 game in Atlanta is simple. Win and you’re in.

CIAA title game is set

It’ll be Bowie State vs. Fayetteville State in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) football championship game in Salem, Virginia, on Nov. 10. For Bowie State, it’ll be the third time in four seasons playing for the title, which it has never won.

Bowie State (5-1, 8-2) made easy work of Elizabeth City State, 49-7, last weekend as quarterback Amir Hall went 24-for-39 with 336 yards and four touchdowns. Hall, the NCAA Division II passing yardage leader this season, became the CIAA career touchdown leader with 98 touchdowns, breaking the record of 96 set by former Winston-Salem State quarterback Kam Smith.

Fayetteville State (5-1, 6-2), which had already clinched the conference’s South Division, lost 51-21 to divisional rival Winston-Salem State.

Bowie State and Fayetteville State have played each other twice in the CIAA championship game, in 2003 and again in 2009, with Fayetteville State winning both contests.

It’s a rematch for the SIAC title

Come Saturday, it’ll be a rematch between Albany State (6-0, 7-3) and Miles College (4-2, 4-6) for the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) championship. Miles College, which won the SIAC’s West Division but lost to Albany State 30-24 during the regular season, will host the title game.

Albany State beat Fort Valley State, blowing open a close 16-6 game by scoring 17 points in the last four minutes of the third quarter. The Golden Rams won 40-6 and ended the regular season 7-3, winning the East Division title after an 0-3 start.

Clark Atlanta beats Morehouse

The Clark Atlanta Panthers spoiled the postseason hopes of the Morehouse Maroon Tigers on Nov. 3, winning 30-13 in a heated game at CAU Panther Stadium.

“We knew we had to gang tackle. We had to surround them,” said Panthers coach Kevin Ramsey. “We didn’t want one guy to be in a lot of open space, a lot of green. We wanted to box them in, and I thought that our plan to box them in led to the guys who overall did a good job of that, primarily when it got close in the red zone.”

The Panthers defense was effective in holding Morehouse’s rushers to 112 yards. CAU senior running back Roger Thomas put on a show for senior day, as he rushed for 199 yards in his last game.

Despite the tough loss to rival Clark Atlanta (2-4, 3-7), the Maroon Tigers finished the season 7-3 overall and 3-3 in the SIAC. Those were the most wins in a season for the Maroon Tigers since 2010.

“We found out we can beat teams that have more resources than we do. We did that with Tuskegee, we did it with Miles, we did it with Arkansas Pine-Bluff. Just about everyone that we beat had more resources than we have,” said coach Rich Freeman. “I’m happy with our administration because they get behind athletics, and that’s all we need for that continued support. I’m happy with our president and our AD. You know they’re going to get behind and continue to push us, and I think the sky is the limit for our program.”

Grambling wins

Grambling State held off Mississippi Valley State for a 24-19 victory in Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) play Nov. 3, keeping alive its chances to win the West Division title.

If the Tigers beat Southern on Nov. 24 in the Bayou Classic, they will make it to the SWAC title game Dec. 1 against the winner of the East Division, which Alcorn State leads right now at 5-1.

Alcorn State played well Nov. 3 against FBS opponent New Mexico State before losing 52-48. The Braves (7-3) trailed 35-7 in the second quarter before they rallied to cut the Aggies’ lead to 38-35 with 10:43 left in the fourth. New Mexico State followed with a 68-yard touchdown drive.

“When you fall behind like that against an FBS team, it would have been easy for us to have just folded,” Alcorn coach Fred McNair said. “Our guys showed no signs of quitting. We executed really well in the second half and fought hard to get the deficit down like that in the fourth quarter.”

Alcorn quarterback Noah Johnson had five touchdowns, with 316 yards passing and four touchdowns plus 138 rushing yards with a touchdown.

Isaiah George is a senior multimedia journalism major from Temple Hills, Maryland. He's a reporter for BearTV at Morgan and is a fan of all the major Washington, D.C., sports teams.

Tucker Toole is a 2020 Morehouse College graduate. This Chicago native was sports editor for the “Maroon Tiger” and is a die-hard Chicago sports fan.