Kris Ferguson

CIAA Week 8: Welcome to the Twilight Zone

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There are just some stories that are feel good. They are the ones that leave your mouth aghast and leave you clamoring for more details. Picture this: Its homecoming. You haven’t scored more than 13 points a game all season. All of a sudden, you find yourself up 21-0 and it’s just the 2nd quarter. Like, what is even going through your mind in that situation. One thought might be – don’t screw this up.

Such was the case of Lincoln-Elizabeth City State. Lincoln almost squandered prosperity. The Lions couldn’t find any more offense, and ECSU came roaring back to score three unanswered TDs. Then on the third TD, the Vikings lined up for the PAT, ball is snapped, kicker kicks, and….that all too familiar sound happens: *thump* THE KICK IS BLOCKED (because kicks that don’t make sounds make it to the uprights, right?). The final score: Lincoln 21, ECSU 20. Okay, I’m being a bit dramatic here, as the blocked kick happened with 5:35 left in the 4th quarter and not at the very end of the game.

No one picked Lincoln to win this game. I mean...nobody. ECSU isn't have a great season, but I thought they'd have enough offense to withstand this. The Lions snapped a 24 game losing streak and won its first Northern Division game in nine years. Lincoln won this game on the strength of a little known static – blocked kicks. Lincoln is actually 6th in the country in blocked kicks with five. That feat came in handy in this game. The Lions’ blocked a field goal attempt in the first quarter and Kendall Brooks picked up the ball and raced down the field for a touchdown. That and the blocked PAT sealed the deal. Lincoln has found the wins hard to come by, but I hope this game provides some positive moment for the program going forward. I do have a challenge for the Lions going forward: Please don’t be last in the country in Scoring Offense this year. The MIAA’s Missouri Southern has a three point advantage (five vs eight points per game). Please don’t be last.

What else is happening in the league?

The CIAA published it’s modified criteria for determining the divisional winners. Normally, overall conference record determines the divisional winners. Games cancelled because of Hurricane Florence impacted two crossover games that couldn’t be rescheduled before the end of the regular season (Chowan at Shaw, which was scheduled for week 3, an Out of Conference week, and ECSU at Fayetteville State, scheduled for week 4 but was unplayable given that Fayetteville was under water and FSU was closed). Chowan and Shaw has decided to play the game the Thursday before Championship Saturday. ECSU could schedule to play the non-championship participant between Winston-Salem State and FSU, as WSSU/ECSU were scheduled for a non-conference game during week three. Should it happen, that matchup would have to be decided at a later date.

In strange news, Saint Augustine’s Head Coach Tim Chavous was placed on administrative leave at some point before last weekend’s tilt against WSSU. No one outside of the University knows the reason, and supposedly he will be back. But, I will caution you here: SAU has a history of putting head coaches on leave or abruptly letting them go. It happened to Michael Costa, who was let go one game into the 2014 season, Michael Morand was on staff and was given the interim tag before getting the boot a year later. Guess who was on staff and got hired: Tim Chavous. Does the cycle repeat itself? Only time will tell.

There’s a phenomena I’ve noticed recently. There seems to be an abnormally high level of freshman quarterbacks receiving meaningful playing time: Livingstone’s Miles Hayes, WSSU’s Dominque Graves, Saint Augustine’s John Darby IV, ECSU’s Kedrick Patterson, Chowan’s Jayden Riley, JCSU’s Antonio Wallace and Lincoln’s Zach Green. That’s more than half of the conference, and that doesn’t include new starters such as FSU’s Collyn Anderson (Junior) and Shaw’s Keon Marsh (Senior). Some are due to injuries, some of last years starters were benched, and some are more gadget guys. But, those are names you’re likely to hear a lot going forward.

Top Performers
The CIAA continues to showcase a number of players who are performing at a high level week after week. With apologies to offensive linemen, whose stats do not show up on the NCAA’s websites, here are some of the conference’s top performers when measured against the D2 landscape:


QB Amir Hall, Bowie State: Amir is #1 in the country in passing yards and total individual offense, and #11 in passing touchdowns with 17

QB Bryce Witt, Chowan: Bryce is #6 in total individual offense with 329 yards a game, and #22 in passing TDs with 15

QB Cordelral Cook, Virginia State: Cordelral is #15 in total individual offense with 297 yards a game

QB Darius Taylor, Virginia Union: Darius is #48 in total individual offense with 240 yards a game.

RB Tabyus Taylor: Tabyus is second in the country in rushing touchdowns with 15 and #6 in all-purpose yards with 183.33 a game. Even more importantly, all of his yards come from scrimmage, as he does not return kicks or punts.

RB Kerrion Moore, Winston-Salem: Kerrion is 6th in the country in rushing touchdowns with 11.

RB Stevie Green, Fayetteville State: Stevie is #20 in all-purpose yards with 142.60. Stevie also does not return kicks or punts.


Shaw LB Devon Hunt: Devon is 27th in the country in solo tackles per game with 5.71. He also leads the conference in total tackles.

ECSU DL Shawn Bridges and DE Keyshawn James, FSU: Shawn and Keyshawn have 1.20 sacks a game, which tied for 5th in the country

Bowie State DL Joshua Pryor: Joshua is also a terror on defense, with 1.14 sacks a game.

Recaps of last week’s game:

ECSU at Lincoln: See the start of this blog.

Virginia Union at Chowan: VUU enjoyed a second homecoming, this time crashing Chowan’s party. The Panthers just kept on scoring…and scoring…and scoring, 48 in total. Chowan tried to keep up, but the Hawks seem to have a case of the fumble-itis when the stakes get too large. The Hawks lost three fumbles, including one on a critical drive deep into the game. You cannot make mistakes against a team as assembly-line efficient as VUU. Here’s an observation: Tabyus Taylor scored more, but his RB counterpart in Tyrell Freeman had more total offense (239 vs 207). That’s how much offense was in this game.

Virginia State at Bowie State: The north division is such a slog, and this game was the epitome of that thought. Last year’s affair was high scoring; this year, it was a 20-15 drama. The game really can be boiled down to two facts: VSU uncharacteristically committed four turnovers didn’t help the Trojans, and Bowie State’s continued difficulties in the red zone and settling for field goals somewhat leveled the playing field. These are two teams who are but a shadow of their former (i.e. last year) selves.

Saint Augustine’s at WSSU: Did anyone catch the name of that quarterback the Rams put in the backfield? If you didn’t, his name was Dominique Graves. In his second straight collegiate start, Graves passed for 311 yards and directed the Rams to a 36-6 rout. That passing output was one-third of the yards WSSU passed for ALL LAST SEASON. SAU’s QB Darby IV struggled against WSSU’s defense, who twice turned away in the end zone via interceptions.

Johnson C Smith at Fayetteville State: I turned to this game at the end of the first half and immediately turned away, as in “oh, nothing to see here”. When I turned to the game, I watched David “Leg of” Lamb kicking the ball through the uprights for a field goal and the game became 43-0. FSU scored a lot on special teams against a Golden Bulls team that had no answers. FSU is a long way from Lincoln in geography and scoring potency.

Shaw at Livingstone: This was such a back and forth game. Livingstone led 16-9, but then the teams started trading TDs until Shaw scored midway through the fourth and Livingstone stalled to end the game. Shaw lived off the big plays, scoring TDs on five plays or less three times. Livingstone was more methodical, needing in excess of 10 plays a drive to score. Livingstone was a bit out of control on penalties (7 for 148, how does this happen?!).

This week’s games

Must see: Bowie State (5-2) at Virginia Union (6-1)

This is a compelling matchup. I mean you know Bowie State is going to pass. Are you going to stop them? VSU slowed down Amir Hall, and that didn’t help. WSSU suffered the same fate. VUU certainly didn’t shut down Bryce Witt, who still managed to attain over 300 yards of offense. The key for VUU is to slow down Amir Hall. The key for Bowie State is to keep VUU’s offense off the field. VUU is 50 percent on third down conversion, 7th best in the country. This is a must win for both teams. A Bowie State loss likely means no playoffs and no championship game. A VUU loss could mean two teams make it to the playoffs but the championship race becomes much more scintillating. Keep in mind that regional rankings are released this coming week, so we would know where things stood after considering the aftermath. One area to watch is whether BSU can get in the end zone or settles for more FGs – not because of the questionable red zone offense, but because VUU is tops IN THE COUNTRY in blocked kicks with nine. I like VUU’s chances here, but I will have to suck it up and go with the Bulldogs because I picked them to win the conference (also, I am NOT going to this game, because I seem to be the doggy reaper. When I go to BSU’s games this year, they lose).

Could be interesting

Johnson C Smith (1-5) at Shaw (2-4)
Okay, so we have two teams that are clearly struggling. JCSU cant seem to get its offense going, and its defense submits at the game wears on. Shaw has shown flashes of brilliance on offense, but just in the passing game. This game features two of three worst rushing teams in the conference AND the country. Only Lake Erie College from the GMAC rushes for fewer yards per carry and per game than Shaw does (28 vs 54). Its THAT bad. JCSU isn’t much better. So, expect an airshow. Between Gorham, Bender, McClain (as a receiver, not a runner) and Green, Jr, Shaw has a decidedly big advantage. That doesn’t even count the defense, with Hunt and Scroggins. I’ll take the Bears.

Chowan (2-4) at Elizabeth City (1-4)
I like this game because I want to see whether ECSU’s fearsome front line on defense will get to Bryce Witt. Witt is an escape artist and is not easy to bring down. Give him time, and he will pick you apart. Otherwise, I expect Chowan to take force the Viking ship aground in this rivalry game.

Fayetteville State (4-1) at Saint Augustine’s (2-4)
This could be interesting only because its SAU’s homecoming. Strange things happen at homecomings. I’m starting to think that starting QB DJ Johnson isn’t coming back this year and will probably aim for medical redshirt for next year. FSU is on fire right now, and I don’t think SAU has the horsepower (lol so much pun) to keep up.
Start the counters

Livingstone (2-4) at Winston-Salem State (3-3)
WSSU has a 15 game winning streak against Livingstone. The reason to watch this game is to see whether Dominque Graves is for real or whether last week’s game was an aberration. I’m assuming that Rod Tinsley isn’t playing or will ceremoniously play since it’s his last season. Get there early, since WSSU’s homecoming games are likely to exceed 15,000 in attendance.

Lincoln (1-6) at Virginia State (3-3)
Its three straight homecoming games for Lincoln. This will not be pretty. I wont be surprised if Lincoln gets shut out of this game. Not because VSU’s defense is so much better, but because Lincoln has been unable to finish drives when it gets to the redzone. The inability to run the ball and the compact field means that the Lions stall out at the opponent 20. Expect a 60 point outburst for Cook and Company.

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