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FAMU is rolling toward MEAC football title

The Rattlers could win conference championship with victory at Howard on Saturday

Florida A&M is one win away from winning its first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) football title in eight seasons as the Rattlers travel to play at Howard on Saturday.

With their 38-3 rout of visiting Morgan State on Oct. 27, the Rattlers are 5-0 in the MEAC, 6-2 overall and have their first winning season since 2011.

“Another great win for the program. First winning season since 2011. This is a huge accomplishment for these young men. They worked extremely hard and bought into what we’re trying to do here,” said first-year head coach Willie Simmons.

“After a huge win two weeks ago against [North Carolina] A&T, a lot of people were patting them on the back. They could’ve come out here and overlooked Morgan State,” said Simmons. “We didn’t play perfect, but well enough to dominate the game from the beginning.”

FAMU led 31-0 at halftime. A first-quarter defensive score after a fumble recovery opened the scoring, followed by a 22-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Chad Hunter from quarterback Ryan Stanley.

Yahia Aly kicked a 47-yard field goal to open the second quarter, after which the Rattlers scored twice more, with Stanley hitting wide receiver Marcus Williams and then Xavier Smith for the big lead.

Morgan State (1-4 MEAC, 2-6 overall) didn’t score until early in the fourth quarter, on an Alex Reya field goal.

“We have to win at Howard. That’s it. We’re going to keep going hard because we want the championship,” said Williams.

Howard loses homecoming

Any fleeting hope that Howard might have had of winning the MEAC title this season was spoiled at its homecoming Oct. 27, in a 27-21 loss to South Carolina State.

“A very huge and much-needed win for our team on the road against a very good Bison football team,” said coach Buddy Pough. “We made some big plays early on, but they [the Bison] kept coming down the stretch to keep the game close.”

S.C. State (3-2, 3-5) controlled the tempo with a 17-0 lead off a 14-yard score by quarterback Tyrece Nick, a 40-yard run by running back Omar Cummings and a field goal.

Howard (3-2, 3-4) scored on a 34-yard run by running back Dedrick Parson to make it 17-7 after the extra point. Another Bulldogs field goal gave S.C. State a 20-7 lead at halftime.

Nick’s 1-yard run at the 9:25 mark in the fourth pushed the Bulldogs’ lead to 27-7. A 65-yard pass from Howard quarterback Caylin Newton to Faraji Joseph closed the gap to 27-14, followed by a 2-yard run by Parson with 1:53 remaining, making it 27-20.

The Bulldogs’ defense forced two interceptions by Newton, who completed 11 of 19 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown. Nick was 10-of-18 for 154 yards, while Cummings finished with 11 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown for S.C. State.

Alcorn State surprises Prairie View

Noah Johnson threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns and De’Shawn Waller carried for 120 yards and a score as Alcorn State spoiled Prairie View A&M’s homecoming, 27-13, in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) battle Oct. 27.

Johnson hit Chris Blair for a 30-yard touchdown pass to take a 7-3 lead in the first quarter, but Bernard Goodwater returned the ensuing kickoff 81 yards for a touchdown to put Prairie View up 10-7. Corey McCullough kicked field goals from 39 and 20 yards out and Dayall Harris pulled in a 44-yard pass from Johnson for a 20-10 lead at halftime.

Johnson was 19-of-30 passing and Harris had three catches for 81 yards for the Braves (5-1, 7-2).

Jalen Morton was 16-of-33 for 174 yards for Prairie View (2-2, 3-5) but was picked off twice.

Jackson State fires coach after Southern loss

The 41-7 beatdown of Jackson State by Southern University on Oct. 27 apparently led to the announcement Sunday by Tigers athletic director Ashley Robinson that football coach Tony Hughes won’t have his contract renewed at season’s end.

The Tigers are 3-4 overall and 2-2 in the SWAC this season, but during Hughes’ tenure, which began with the 2016 season, they are 9-20 overall and 8-12 in the SWAC.

Defensive coordinator John Hendrick will serve as interim coach for the remainder of the season.

In the game at Southern (4-1, 5-3), the Jaguars scored two defensive touchdowns and made big special-teams plays to defeat the Tigers easily.

Senior cornerback Demerio Houston scored the first defensive touchdown on a 42-yard fumble return, making the score 21-0; the second defensive score came after a strip sack by Jordan Lewis, who returned the fumble for the final score.

Jackson State gained just 32 rushing yards and 197 passing yards. Southern quarterback Ladarius Skelton finished with 150 total yards and two scores.

Jackson State’s only score came on a 42-yard punt return in the third quarter by Warren Newman, but the Jags’ Shontega Thomas responded with a 92-yard kickoff return for a score on the next play.

Teams make CIAA, SIAC title games

Fayetteville State has played its way into the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) title game on Nov. 10 in Salem, Virginia. With the Broncos’ 45-7 win against Livingstone and Winston-Salem State’s loss at Shaw on Oct. 27, Fayetteville State (5-0, 6-1) wins the league’s Southern Division title. Broncos quarterback Collyn Anderson threw for 280 yards and three touchdowns, two in the first half, helping the Broncos build a 28-0 lead at halftime and a 38-0 lead before Livingstone scored in the fourth quarter.

Bowie State stayed in the hunt for the CIAA Northern Division title with a come-from-behind 35-14 win against Lincoln (Pennsylvania) University. Quarterback Amir Hall continued to show why he’s the leading passer in Division II, finishing 24-of-42 for 306 yards and four touchdowns.

In the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC), Albany State won its sixth straight game, shutting out Benedict 21-0 to claim the East Division title and a berth in the Nov. 10 conference title game.

Albany State quarterback Kelias Williams threw for two touchdowns and ran for another. The Golden Rams (5-0, 6-3) held the Tigers (3-2, 5-2) to 169 yards of total offense.

John X. Miller is senior editor for news and commentary for The Undefeated. He's a father, jazz aficionado and diehard UNC basketball fan.