In recent years the second month of college football season has been about the DMV’s Black College programs getting a head start on next year. However, Bowie State, Howard, and Morgan State are now in a position to think about more than playing for respectability in the CIAA and MEAC respectively.
After getting thrashed at the University of Akron to open the season, Morgan has turned the year around with three straight wins including their conference opener at Bethune Cookman last week. It is the first time since 1996 that they are 3-1 after four games. The Bears host North Carolina A&T for homecoming in Baltimore this Saturday afternoon at 1 pm and it is a major test as the meat of their Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference schedule kicks into another gear.
However, these are not the Aggies of the last three years as Morgan’s former defensive coordinator Alonzo Lee brings them to Hughes Stadium. Lee was the architect of the Bears top rated nationally ranked defense in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) in 2007 and 2008 and North Carolina A&T is poised to spoil the festivities in northeast Baltimore.
“Anytime you’re facing someone who knows the campus so well that you can turn off all the lights and walk from end to end without bumping into something you know its going to be a dog fight,” says Morgan Coach Don Hill-Eley. “Its like facing your older brother, you love him but you still want to beat him bad”.
Despite Lee’s defection to Greensboro, Morgan’s defense still remains amongst the elite in the nation. Senior linebacker George Howard has been named MEAC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in each of the last three games. Howard has 52 total tackles in that span and finally after sharing the weekly accolades this he finally stands alone this week.
This is a huge game for Morgan because next Thursday they will host Howard for a nationally televised showdown on ESPNU. A victory would send the Bears into that contest at 4-1 with two wins in the conference as the Bison prepare for another short week and a road trip.
Nonetheless, Howard can take a giant step toward regaining credibility in the conference, on campus, and in the community by defeating Hampton this weekend. For the second straight year they have to travel to the “other” HU for the annual renewal of their upscale feud for the 6 pm kickoff at Armstrong Field.
Last year the Bison were in a position to beat Hampton when the lights went out at the stadium causing a delay of nearly an hour which allowed the Pirates to score 38 unanswered points and pull off the controversial victory. Howard has won two consecutive games against winless opponents so this would qualify as a statement victory for the resurgence of the Bison program.
“The thing that concerns me about Hampton is Hampton,” says Howard coach Carey Bailey. “They are one of the most talented teams in the country and they do a lot of things well. This will be a real test for us”.
In his first month at his alma mater Bowie State coach Damon Wilson has brought the program from shadows into focus. Two weeks ago they beat two time defending champion Shaw University to win the sixth annual Prince George’s Classic. At the time the Bears were the top ranked HBCU team in Division II and that victory propelled them back into the CIAA race.
The Bulldogs are on the road at Elizabeth City State in a game that could be the difference between watching or playing in next month’s CIAA championship game. ECSU has already lost to Shaw and Virginia State so this is a must win for them to stay alive in the race to play for the title in Durham. Bowie needs the win to stay on track after losing earlier to Fayetteville State. They would love nothing more than to derail the Vikings post season plans after they rallied from a 13 point deficit last year to ruin the Bulldogs’ homecoming.