We have known for a few weeks now that Alcorn State would represent the Eastern Division in the SWAC championship game taking place in Houston this Saturday. With much anticipation, we were waiting to see who would represent the West.
For months, we thought the Bayou Classic between Southern and Grambling would decide the West and it did Saturday as GSU defeated SU 52-30 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. The game was everything it was billed to be between the two most high powered offenses in HBCU football. The teams combined to account for 1,023 yards of total offense.
Grambling quarterback DeVante Kincade continued to show why he is one of the top quarterbacks in FCS and did it in front of a capacity crowd and national television audience. He completed 24-of-33 passes for 283 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions and rushed for 56 yards and a touchdown. The Tigers ground game was sensational, raking up a season high 256 yards rushing, with Martez Carter leading the way with 118 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
In the last game of his collegiate career, SWAC all-time leading rusher Lenard Tillery gave a valiant effort for the Jaguars, rushing for 245 yards and a touchdown. He finishes the season with 1,665 yards and 13 touchdowns and is the leading rusher this season in HBCU football. For his career he finishes with 4,741 yards rushing.
Bayou Classic Attendance
Speaking of attendance, the Bayou Classic showed why it is the granddaddy of all HBCU classics and one of the most well attended collegiate football games each year. After getting a classic low of 40,715 in 2011, the classic has surged each year, in part because with one or both teams have been very good since.
This year, both teams were very good, both entering the game undefeated in SWAC play with the Western Division crown on the line. In addition to the festivities surrounding the game, the outcome really meant something which would explain the 67,845 in attendance, up more than close to 5,000 people from last year’s game where no championship was on the line.
This year’s attendance was the most since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Closer to a true HBCU national champion
With the formation of the Celebration Bowl last year, the thought was that the game would go further in determining a true Black college national champion. Regardless of whether FCS and Division II teams should be ranked in the same poll when determining a champion, a game cannot determine a true champion if Tennessee State, who is a member of the OVC, is not involved.
This year with the Tigers season ending at 7-4 and no FCS playoff appearance, the Tigers appear to be out of the equation and we could be headed for another consensus champion, like we had last year with North Carolina A&T, although an argument could have been made for NCCU who defeated the Aggies. (An argument could have also been made for Bethune-Cookman who handed NCCU its only MEAC loss. The three teams finished as MEAC co-champions.) North Carolina Central won the MEAC championship outright and awaits the winner of Saturday’s SWAC championship game between Alcorn State and Grambling.
Grambling will be favored in the game and defeated the Braves 43-18 on September 24. If the Celebration Bowl is indeed North Carolina Central/Grambling, the winner of the game more than likely will be unanimously voted national champions by voters from the two leading polls, Sheridan and BOXTOROW.
Currently, Grambling is No. 1 in the BOXTOROW Coaches and Media Polls as well as the Sheridan Poll, although NCCU is receiving first-place votes in all three polls.
A&T, Tuskegee lose in national playoffs
Tuskegee’s quest for a national championship will have to wait another year as the Golden Tigers fell to North Greenville 45-26. This was the Golden Tigers fourth-straight year participating in the Division II national playoffs after never having participated, electing to play in the annual Turkey Day Classic against Alabama State for 80+ years.
North Carolina A&T fell to perennial power Richmond 39-10 in the first round of the FCS playoffs. It was the Aggies first playoff appearance since 2003 as the Aggies received an at-large berth for the first time ever.
In Aggies running back Tarik Cohen’s last game, the MEAC’s all-time leading rusher had 70 yards rushing on 13 carries. He finishes the season with 1,588 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns and 5,619 career rushing yards.