While Bowie State vs. Virginia Union is our game of the week, Week 8 of the HBCU football season presents some interesting dynamics for a couple of different reasons.
Even though it’s Week 8, there are still some out of conference matchups taking place. Tennessee State who is on a roll and ranked No. 3 in the BOXTOROW coaches poll and No. 4 in the media poll, will face SEC opponent Vanderbilt. The game will be nationally televised on ESPNU. Does a game like this with the momentum that the Tigers have stymie them a bit moving forward in OVC play or could “playing up” make them better for their last four games which three of those game are against current OVC bottom feeders?
Prairie View A&M is at Rice. Rice is a member of Conference USA. Like TSU, PV is still in the hunt for a conference crown. The Panthers played a different kind of FBS opponent earlier in the season, falling to unbeaten Texas A&M 67-0.
The other dynamic are the races in the SIAC. This will not be just a three-horse race between Miles, Albany State and Tuskegee.
Albany State will have stiff competition this Saturday in the form of Clark Atlanta. The Golden Rams (3-3, 2-1), who have played in every SIAC championship game except one since 2011, host a Panthers (5-2, 3-2) team that has won four-straight. The winner of this game will be in the driver’s seat in the East.
BOXTOROW National Game of the Week
9 Bowie State (5-2, 4-0) vs. Virginia Union (4-3, 3-1)
A win for Bowie State and its road is not hard as they look to wrap up the Northern Division and a berth in the CIAA championship game, with bottom-feeders Lincoln (PA) and Elizabeth City State remaining. A win for Virginia Union and the Panthers keep their hopes alive, but a loss and they are all but done.
Bowie State’s offense has been dynamic and that was evidenced by the three touchdowns it scored in an 11-minute span to score 18 unanswered points and hold of Virginia state 38-37 on homecoming last Saturday. The offensive fire power has a lot to do with the system and goes back to last year when quarterback Matthew Goggans was averaging in excess of 300 yards per game passing. But after the fifth game, he was found to have been ineligible and the Bulldogs turned to Nyema Washington and their running game which was able to get them some wins in some close games down the stretch. BSU won the North and received an at-large berth to the Division II Playoffs.
The main staple between last year and this year has been BOXTOROW All-American wide receiver Nyme Manns. Manns has been just as spectacular this year and has 53 receptions for 775 yards, is averaging 14.6 yards per reception and has caught seven touchdown passes.
Quarterback Amir Hall has played less like a first-year player and more like a veteran. Over the 11-minute span where BSU scored 18 unanswered points to ultimately edge out Virginia State, Hall completed 8-of-12 passes for 120 yards and one touchdown, rushed for 34 yards and rushed for the game-winning touchdown. He completed 25-of-36 passes for 332 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions and rushed for another touchdown. He leads the conference in completion percentage (61.7), passing yards (2,363) and touchdowns (19). His passing yards rank him fifth in Division II.
While Bowie State found it difficult to run the football against a very good Virginia State rush defense, running back Robert Chesson scored on a 24-yard touchdown run with 3:55 left in the third quarter that pulled the Bulldogs to within 37-32. The Bulldogs running game and the offensive line has also aided in Hall’s success. Chesson is averaging 5.8 yards per carry, has rushed for 533 yards and has seven rushing touchdowns. He is also a threat to catch the ball; he has 20 receptions for 234 yards and two touchdowns.
The Panthers on the other hand are coming off a devastating and somewhat surprising 54-21 loss to Chowan. While Chowan has been known for its high-powered offenses, it usually is in the bottom half of the conference in defense. Yet, the Hawks held the Panthers vaunted rushing attack, led by William Stanback, to just 23 yards rushing. Stanback carried the ball 12 times for 13 yards. While quarterback Shaheem Dowdy passed for 380 yards, he completed 31-of-68 passes with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Panthers abandoned the run early in part because of Chowan’s defense and in part because they found themselves down 27-0 early.
VUU will need to get back to running the football first. Stanback averages 6.2 yards per carry, has 830 yards rushing on the season and has rushed for 11 touchdowns. Dowdy is a veteran quarterback and has been solid this year completing 53 percent of his pass, averaging 237.3 yards passing per game and has thrown 15 touchdowns to nine interceptions.
The Panthers will need to find a good run-pass balance against Bulldogs.
As high-powered as Bowie State’s offense is, its defense gets overshadowed a bit. The Bulldogs rank second in the CIAA in total defense (317.7). The Bulldogs are balanced against the pass and the run and are actually No. 1 against the pass (179.3), but even more so, is opportunistic. They are second in the conference in takeaways (18) with nine interceptions and nine fumble recoveries.
Virginia Union’s overall defense on the other hand is not as stout as Bowie State. The biggest concern for the Panthers is the pass defense which is next to last in the conference giving up 237.9 yards per game. Unlike last year when the Panthers could pressure quarterbacks with two stud defensive ends, they have only managed 11 sacks on the season. They do however have nine interceptions.
The game will be broadcast on ESPN3. Bowie State won last year’s meeting which had similar implications 23-19 in Bowie, Md.
VUU wins if… they can figure out a way to show Hall some different looks and put pressure on him. He has thrown nine interceptions this year, but only two in the last three games. If they can’t stop the BSU offense, they will have to put up enough points to outscore Bowie State who is averaging 40.9 points per game.
BSU wins if… they play solid defense. BSU gave up 405 yards of total offense, 287 of those on the ground to Virginia State. Stanback may get his yards, but they must not allow Dowdy to beat them.