Kris Ferguson

CIAA Playoffs Week 2: We are all on the Bowie State Bandwagon

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Allow me to entertain you on this Friday before the next set of playoffs. I'm rather excited as this is the first time in the three years of blogging that I've had to post about a CIAA game this deep into the season. This was a rather active week for the CIAA despite only having one team in the playoffs. Let’s talk about what’s happened on and off the field.

Harlon Hill Trophy Outlook

The CIAA has two players nominated for the Harlon Hill Trophy this year. Bowie State QB Amir Hall was nominated for the second straight year. Chowan QB Bryce Witt was the second player nominated. Here’s a quick look at their resumes and outlook for winning the trophy known as D2’s most outstanding player:

Amir Hall: 3865 passing yards, 29 Passing TDs, 9 Interceptions, 334 Pass Completions, 509 Pass Attempts, 476 Rushing Yards, 7 Rushing Touchdowns

A little history lesson: Hall was tops in passing yards and total yards per game at the end of the 2017 regular season. While Hall still performed at a very high level (398 yards vs Delta State in the first round of last year’s playoffs), he lost considerable ground to his competitors with the first round exit. The end of the season saw Texas A&M Commerce’s Luis Perez winning the Trophy, while Hall finished fifth in the overall Harlon Hill voting. I attributed Hall’s final Trophy finish to BSU’s first round exit from the playoffs, which reduced the number of playable games to rack up statistics.

Presently, Hall is tops in the country in several categories, including passing yards, total yards, pass completions, and pass attempts. Hall is the only quarterback in the top five of passing yards and total offense categories who is still playing. That means the Hall has an opportunity to put more distance between him and the rest of the competition. Plus, he is this year’s Offensive Player of the Year in the conference, and he should be a first team All-American when post season accolades come out.

There's one other thing I want to mention about Hall. I’ve observed many people who want to discount Hall’s accolades because of the CIAA’s strength of schedule. The problem with argument is that Hall’s performance has been very consistent during his career regardless of whether the competition was a CIAA team, out of conference D-II school, or even a FCS school. Hall’s least productive performance this season was against rival Virginia State (171 pass yards, 8 rushing yards), while some of his best performances were against out of conference competition (va McKendree with 352 pass yards, 95 rush yards, and four total touchdowns, while against West Alabama he had 360 pass, 51 rush, and three total touchdowns).

Bryce Witt: 2700 yards passing, 27 Passing TDs, 7 Interceptions, 187 Passing Completions, 307 Passing Attempts, 671 Rushing yards, 10 Rushing touchdowns

Witt’s took a significant step forward in his production for his Sophomore campaign. In two less games played, Witt has been responsible for more scoring production than Hall. Witt finished third in the country in total offensive yards per game. There is a difference in Hall and Witt' styles: Hall is moreso tactical in his execution, picking a defense apart as he goes down the field. On the other hand, Witt will use brute force if necessary to force a defense to bend to his will. Like Hall, Witt also passed for more than 300 yards against a FCS school (Hall with 365 yards against Wagner, Witt for 302 yards against Davidson). Chowan finished with their best outcome in a season against D2 schools since moving up to D2 (6-2) and Witt had a lot to do with that outcome.

Notably missing from the list of 37 nominees was Virginia Union RB Tabyus Taylor. The absence is a headscratcher given his statistical feats. Here is the Taylor Bio:

Tabyus Taylor: 1546 Rushing Yards, 355 Receiving Yards, 61 Return Yards, 23 total Touchdowns.

Taylor is in rare company when compared to the national field. He remains first in all-purpose yards per game with 196, besting Notre Dame College’s Jaleel McLaughlin and University of Sioux Falls’ Gabriel Watson. McLaughin and Watson are both nominees for the Trophy. Taylor is second in scoring per game by a non-quarterback; Watson finished ahead of him. Taylor is sixth in the country in total rushing yards, but a lot of that has to do with him playing one or two less games than his competitors. Though I don’t think Taylor would have been one of the finalists this year, you’d think he would have been nominated at a minimum.

Bowie State Continues to Carry the Mantle

Welcome to week two of the playoffs. This is a special year in which the CIAA has made it out of the first round, albeit without its fair share of drama. Bowie State, as a four seed hosted and outlasted five-seed West Alabama in quite a shootout. The 41-35 outcome looks like a close game, but this game ebbed and flowed.

What went well: BSU took control of this game in the second quarter, and really had the chance to throw a knockout punch in the third. DB Roger Richardson intercepted UWA QB Harry Satterwhite twice. One Int nearly went for a pick six, while the second one DID go for a pick six. Satterwhite was intercepted by BSU three times. Amir Hall characteristically performed at a high level. Bowie State is known to have several WRs who have led in reception yards in a single game. Last week’s star at WR was seldom used Jordan Crockett. Crockett, a graduate transfer from FCS Albany, had 7 receptions for 131 yards and a TD. I suspect that Crockett was the stand-in for WR Montez Clay, who was out with an injury. Also, Bowie’s defensive front four, lead by Derrick Tate’s five tackles, pressured Satterwhite all game and assisted with slowing UWA’s rushing attached (only 62 rushing yards).

What didn’t go so well: Penalties were a big black mark against the Bulldogs, and it seemed like Bowie didn’t know how to live with prosperity. The Bulldogs were up 27-14 well into the third quarter, and had UWA’s offense in a fourth and short. The Tigers set up to punt….and then the whistle sounds. The penalty – defensive encroachment – resulted in a enough yardage for a first down. UWA went on to score on that drive. In total, BSU accreted 13 penalties for 133 yards, or more than 10 yards a penalty. That’s unacceptable as the competition gets steps up. The other thing that didn’t go so well was Bowie’s penchant for letting teams stick around as a game wears on. The same ugly cycle happened against UWA has it has happened against several teams this year (Alderson-Broddus, McKendree, Winston-Salem, Virginia State, Virginia Union).

Other Notable: The Gulf South Conference took four seeds in last year’s Super Region 2 and ran the table in the first round. It was sobering to watch the CIAA’s two teams and the SAC’s lone representative get trounced, especially given the GSC’s superiority complex. This year, the SAC/CIAA returned the favor, dismissing the GSC’s three representatives. It was so sweet to watch the GSC get toppled in the first round. There's just one problem....

This week’s game (#4 Bowie State at #1 Valdosta State):

Ever remember playing Super Mario Brothers and seeing Koopa as the final boss spewing fireballs? If you do, then the aptly named Valdosta State Blazers is kinda like that final stage boss that BSU faces. Moreover, BSU now takes on the arduous task of playing VSU on the road. Historically, the CIAA has not fared well against the Blazers. The last three games between the Blazers and a CIAA team featured WSSU (2012 National Championship game, and 2014 and 2015 neutral site games), and VSU won all three. VSU is certainly at the bottom of my list when it comes to favorite teams.

What you should know about VSU: The offense is led by QB Rogan Wells, who is also a Harlon Hill Candidate and was the Gulf South Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year. VSU’s offense averages 52 points a game, 530 yards a game, and sports a very balanced offense. The Blazers’ running game has three running backs that have rushed for over 500 yards on the season, and the passing game is spread across multiple receivers. The offensive line is led by Gene Upshaw Award finalist OL Jeremy King. That award goes to the most outstanding lineman in D-II. The defense is no slouch either, but the offense is clearly the start of the show. No team has come within 20 points of the Blazers when the clock hits 0:00.

How can Bowie State beat VSU: Well, Valdosta does have two relative weaknesses that could be exploited. VSU gives up 203 yards a game through the air, and again Bowie’s chances rests on the proficiency of its pass offense. VSU averages one fumble a game, and Bowie does have a better turnover margin than the Blazers. Creating turnovers will be paramount to toppling the Blazer machine. I don’t imagine that BSU’s running game will find much life against VSU. The defensive line will need to harass Wells and keep the Blazer offense off the field as much as possible. Bowie has GOT to reign in the penalties to have a chance in this game.

What are Bowie’s chances? Well, they weren’t as good as last week, that’s for sure. Lets not kid ourselves, as no one has figured out how to topple the Blazer machine this year. The run defense is the biggest concern I have in this game. The Bulldogs last faced a rushing attack this potent in week 1 against FCS Wagner and was greeted by a one-man wrecking crew. The defense IS peaking at the right time, and that is helpful, but I wonder if depth with play a role in this game. Also, the Bulldogs may have to content with not so great weather, and that could be a problem for a pass happy attack. Again, Bowie has to curb the penalties and keep VSU’s offense off the field. Their chances are better since I will play stay away from the game instead of bringing bad mojo.

Here’s my challenge: If somehow Bowie pulls off a victory against Valdosta State, then I will happily donate $1,000 to their football program. It would be worth every dollar to see it happen.

Follow me on Twitter at @d2kferg for updates to tomorrow’s game.

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Updated 11-23-2018 at 05:48 PM by Kris Ferguson



  1. OneOwtDog's Avatar
    Just believe
  2. Rollodex's Avatar
    How about them Blazers 66-16
  3. SCABS040712's Avatar
    look on the bright saved $1,000.00