The heat is on! October showdowns

LUT WILLIAMS BCSP Editor

It’s hard to decide which Saturday result was more shocking – Grambling State knocking SWAC spring champion Alabama A&M from the unbeaten ranks, 37-28, or undefeated Chowan administering an embarrassing 73-7 whipping to former CIAA power Winston- Salem State?

Regardless, neither Grambling nor Chowan gets to rest on their laurels as each has games with potential championship implications this week. But they’re not alone.

The SWAC East and West Divisions and the CIAA North and South Divisions have critical showdowns this week that could all but decide those conference races in early October!

Here’s why.

CIAA

Perhaps Chowan (5-0) should have saved some of those points 73 points (vs. WSSU) for two-time defending conference champion Bowie State (4-1), who comes into Murfreesboro, N. C. Saturday (1 p.m. on the CIAA Network) ready to slow or halt the Indians.

Chowan has been a consistent challenger to Bowie State in the CIAA North over the Bulldogs’ past two championship seasons. CU handed BSU a 42-23 loss in 2018 when now senior quarterback Bryce Witt was a sophomore. Witt threw for 252 yards and two TDs without an interception in that win.

In 2019, BSU administered a 64-17 whipping on the Indians as Witt was held to 136 passing yards and threw three picks without a touchdown.

Witt has been on a roll and is the league’s standout offensive player so far this season. Through five games, he has passed for 1,573 yards (314.6 ypg.) and 20 TDs and just three interceptions. He’s completed 68.4% of his passes (115 of 168) and has rushed for a team- best eight touchdowns.

Chowan also has one of the CIAA’s top rushers in Tyrek McNeil (335 yards, 7.4 ypc.) and two of the top receivers in the league in Laurence King (1st, 40 rec., 571 yds., 7 TDs) and Imeek Watkins (6th, 31 rec., 342 yds., 6 TDs).

BSU will counter with QB Ja’rome Johnson who has completed 59.7% of his passes (74 of 124) for 1,092 yards and 13 TDs with just five picks. Calil Wilkins (321 yds., 2 TDs), coming off his first 100-yard game of the season vs. J. C. Smith, leads the BSU rushers while Darious Bowman (16 rec., 191 yds., 2 TDs) is the top receiving threat.

The real battle however will be between the Chowan offense that is averaging 51.4 points per game, best in the nation, and the Bowie State defense that is surrendering just 14.2 ppg., 10th in Div. II. Something’s got to give here.

In the latest AFCA NCAA Div. II poll, Bowie State is tied for 16th while Chowan moves into the poll for the first time ever at 24th.

The battle in the CIAA South Division in Raleigh, N. C. Saturday (1 p.m. ET) between two-time defending division champ Fayetteville State (3-1) and Shaw (3-2) is no less compelling.

The other four teams in the CIAA South are winless meaning Adrian Jones’ Bears of Shaw appear to be the only real challenger to Richard Hayes’ FSU Broncos.

FSU averages 35.5 points per game to Shaw’s 30.5. Shaw’s defense is in step with BSU’s giving up just 14.2 ppg. FSU is right behind at 17.3 ppg. Both have prolific QBs in FSU’s Khari Lane (813 passing yds., 8 TDs, 3 ints) and Shaw’s Christian Peters (773 passing yds., 7 TDs, 4 ints.). The Shaw ground attack is led by CIAA rushing leader Sidney Gibbs (425 yds., 5.0 ypc., 4 TDs) while FSU is led by Dhonshell Jetton’s 252 yards, 4.2 ypc. and 2

TDs.Based on what others in their divisions have done – or not done – so far this season, each of these games could be for division championships and spots in the Nov. 13 CIAA title game.

SWAC

Grambling State got its first SWAC win Saturday behind the play of freshman QB Noah Bodden (16 of 34, 191 yds., 3 TDs) and an opportunistic defense that picked off Alabama A&M’s SWAC Player of the Year, QB Aqeel Glass, four times and returned a Glass fumble for a TD.

This Saturday the G-Men (2-2, 1-0 SWAC W) invade Lorman, Mississippi to face Alcorn State (2-2, 1-0 W) at the Braves’ homecoming (2 p.m. CT) in a key West Division match up.

Alcorn State, who was idle this past weekend, is also coming off a big come-from-behind 39-38 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff two weeks ago. Alcorn QB Felix Harper threw for 368 yards and three TDs vs. UAPB. The Braves also got their running game going as Niko Duffey rushed for 144 yards and two scores.

Last but certainly not least this week is the battle at Alabama A&M’s homecoming (2 p.m. CT) between the Bulldogs (3-1, 1-1 E) and Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders’ Tigers of Jackson State (3-1, 1-0 E).

All eyes will be on Huntsville, Alabama to see if JSU can take another step in snatching the E. Div. title from the Bulldogs. A&M QB Aqeel Glass will be trying to rebound from a five- turnover outing vs. Grambling.

JSU freshman QB Shedeur Sanders gets another chance to prove that his squad is the team to beat in the conference. This should be a good one.

OTHERS

The first MEAC game of the season has winless Morgan State (0-4) at Howard (1-4) Friday evening (8 p.m. ET). N. C. A&T (vs. North Alabama, 1 p.m.) and Hampton (homecoming vs. Kennesaw State, 2 p.m.) have Big South matchups Saturday. Twelve homecomings are on tap. S. C. State is at Florida A&M are in a non- conference tussle in Tallahassee (6 p.m. ET).