Kris Ferguson

CIAA Championship Week: Wait, but the regular season isnt over yet.

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There wasn’t a more surprising score from last week than the one of Fayetteville State and Winston-Salem State. Rivalry games have a way of bringing out the best or the worst in opponents, and last Saturday was no exception. WSSU rattled off 51 points in its blowout of FSU, and 51 points were the most points the Rams had scored in a game since 2016 against Lincoln. The 2016 version of Lincoln and 2018 version of the Broncos are vastly teams. The Lions were destined for the basement of the standings, while FSU had already been crowned divisional champions for the second straight year. Before this game started, FSU was top five in turnover margin in the country. Its wins against Johnson C Smith and Livingstone featured the Broncos exploiting all kinds of turnover and poor special teams coverage. WSSU sorta gave the Broncos a taste of their own medicine, forcing four turnovers, including two within the Bronco 20-yard line. This game wasn’t close from the start, and now FSU is backing into the title game against a Bowie State team that is a much more efficient and productive offense than WSSU. Surprisingly, FSU did not move and is still ranked 10th in Super Region II, though I think that’s because there aren’t many playoff-worth teams left in SR2. Bronco fans may not like this, I don’t think FSU is either after what we just saw on Saturday. Still, it’s an admirable job of where this team has come in two season.

Other happenings from this week

The CIAA normally doesn’t release week 10 superlatives because it’s the end of the season. Instead, the conference releases its all-conference team. There are two games that will be played this evening (Thursday) and so the conference will release the all-conference team and player of the year selectees tomorrow. Instead, let me whet your appetite with who I thought would have been players of the week:

Quarterback: Vincent Espinoza, Lincoln. Lincoln stopped playing musical chairs with its quarterback position a couple weeks ago and allowed Espinoza to take the reins. While it doesn’t show up in the standing, Espinoza had been making Lincoln football somewhat bearable to watch. In the final game of his college career, the redshirt senior passed for 375 yards and actually had over 400 yards of total offense, including a spectacular 40+ yard rushing TD. His output eclipsed showcases from Amir Hall, Bryce Witt, and Cordelral Cook.

Running Back: Tabyus Taylor, Virginia Union. Taylor continues to pound defenses into submission. Have you seen people trying to tackle this guy? One person doesn’t get the job done. Taylor had 230 yards of total offense against Virginia Union in the win. His performance allowed him to overtake two really good running backs (Gabe Watson of the Northern Sun's Sioux Falls, and Jaleel McLaughlin of the Mountain East's Notre Dame College) in becoming the country's top player in all-purpose yards and scoring average per game. Honorable Mention goes to Chowan’s Tyrell Freeman, who was right on Taylor’s heels in yardage with over 220 yards.

Wide Receiver: Daniel Bender, Shaw and Lansana Sesay, Bowie State. Sesay is the trusty, long range missile threat that defenses try to plan for but are caught off guard once its deployed. Sesay had 141 yards receiving on five catches and two touchdowns. Bender was more active in the pass game for Shaw, as he accounted for nine catches for 179 yards. I suspect that Saint Augustine’s was keyed in on Marquis Gorham but forgot that Bender had a monster game like this earlier this year. Honorable Mention goes to Chowan's Torry Baker, who has 3 receptions for 135 yards and scored on all three receptions.

Linebacker: First name Devon, split into two players. Last name Hunt of Shaw 17 tackles, but the Human GPS’s highlight reel was the one sack that he notched against Saint Augustine’s. That sack came courtesy of Hunt leapfrogging a Falcon player before tracking down the quarterback. Honorable Mention goes to last name Cathcart of Lincoln, who has 18 tackles of his own against Chowan.

Defensive Back: Daryus Skinner, WSSU, who had another interception against Fayetteville State. This guy ends dreams, as the interceptions was in the endzone (again, what that’s like five or six interceptions in the endzone this season?). Skinner leads all D2 defenders in interceptions.

Lincoln Watch: Last week’s challenge was for Lincoln to score 28 points. My goodness, they nearly did it. 27 points plus a shutout of the MIAA’s Missouri Southern means that Lincoln climbed out of the D2 basement for points scored per game. Mo Southern still has to play Pittsburg State, so theoretically it could score enough to put Lincoln back in the basement. Lincoln’s defense will not be the unit that surrenders the most points in a game, as the RMAC’s Adams State has them beat by a long shot.

Trojan down: Virginia State ended the season a sour note. The 46-19 drubbing by arch-rival Virginia Union was rather painful to watch if youre a VSU fan. Particularly, VSU's run game just doesnt have the gamebreaking ability of a year ago, and its vaunted defense was shredded through the air and the ground.

This week:

Half the conference has concluded its season. That means four schools are playing non-championship games on Thursday, while two more are playing for the CIAA title.

In order of games played:

Virginia Union at Johnson C Smith, Thursday at 4

Man, I thought JCSU was going to pass all over Livingstone last week. Instead, Livingstone’s Miles Hayes (my favorite for Freshman of the Year) reentered the fray and corralled the Golden Bulls on the road. Now you’ve got talent-rich VUU, the conference leader in scoring, coming to Charlotte. VUU’s secondary is going to make it very difficult for Antonio Wallace and company, and JCSU continues to struggle with the ground game. There isn’t going to be much luster on the Bulls after this one. VUU by 40+, and that’s being generous. Remember, VUU is playing for a playoff spot here.

Chowan at Shaw, Thursday at 6

This game should be an airshow. Chowan gives up more points per game than anyone in the conference, and Shaw has a passing game that should happily oblige. One battle to watch is Chowan’s offensive line versus a hostile Shaw front seven. If Shaw has a hard time getting to Bryce Witt, then it could be a long day. Conversely, if Keon Marsh has time to pick apart Chowan’s defense, then we might just have ourselves a game in which both teams score over 35. My bet is on Chowan by 14. Remember: The winner of this game will be 6-4, which would tie for their best record since 2013 (Chowan was 6-4 in 2016, while Shaw was 6-4 in 2013).

CIAA Championship Game: Fayetteville State (away) vs Bowie State (home) in Salem, VA., Saturday at 1:06)

This is a 2000s style championship matchup, as these two teams have met in the championship game before. Honestly, you could consider this game a playoff game since both teams are ranked in the top 10 of the regional rankings. BSU has its record-setting quarterback in Amir Hall, now the CIAA’s all-time passing TD leader and less than 100 yards from shattering the CIAA all-time passing yards record. Hall remain the country's leader in total offense too. This doesn’t bode well for FSU, who got rather exposed in the secondary by WSSU last week. FSU hasn’t been as dominate on the ground, though one can never doubt Stevie Green, Donshel Jetton and company. FSU will need to protect QB Collyn Anderson, and Anderson will need to make smart decisions to keep this game close. FSU also thrives off turnovers to assist its efforts. The problem is that Amir Hall is ruthlessly efficient in the air, and is capable of lots of big plays. BSU has been to the championship game in 2015 and 2016 and came up short. Look for them to finally cash in and nab their first conference championship with a margin of victory hovering around 21. Remember: A Bowie win means a home playoff game for the second year in a row. A Bowie loss will drop them but not eliminate them from the playoffs. Instead, they may be forced to go to a Georgia team to be determined as a 6 or 7 seed. A loss does kill the conference’s chances of two teams making it into the playoffs. A FSU win probably wont be enough to catapult them into the top seven, though I could be wrong. It would be compelling to see them leapfrop over VUU and Bowie if FSU wins, since VUU didn’t beat Bowie.

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Updated 11-08-2018 at 02:35 PM by Kris Ferguson

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Comments

  1. KleShreen's Avatar
    LET'S GO TABYUS LEAD ME TO THAT 7TH PLACE FANTASY FINISH
  2. Chuck Bitner's Avatar
    I'm trying to get a handle on what could happen to the rankings if FSU wins but I have no idea. Will be be very interesting if it happens.
  3. Andy Davis's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Bitner
    I'm trying to get a handle on what could happen to the rankings if FSU wins but I have no idea. Will be be very interesting if it happens.
    That would be interesting.