For the first time in a long time, HBCU football is back in full effect and it’s better than ever.
Week one of the season provided some exciting developments that will be interesting to watch going forward.
Several teams made their debuts in new conferences.
There may be a new team emerging in the SWAC and there was a potential candidate for game of the year.
In addition, we also saw some disappointing performances that may or may not have an impact on what happens going forward.
Here are some takeaways from Week 1 of the HBCU football season.
1. Bowie State and Miles College made impressions despite losing
The defending two-time CIAA champion Bowie State Bulldogs and the defending two-time SIAC champion Miles Golden Bears each opened the season with losses to FCS opponents; the Delaware State Hornets and Alabama State Hornets respectively.
In both games, both teams played well in defeat putting themselves in position to win the game down the stretch.
Going into Bowie State’s game against Delaware State, there was high hopes that they could pull off the upset based on their run at the top of the CIAA.
However, the Bulldogs hurt themselves with turnovers committing six in the game including two first quarter turnovers that the Hornets converted to touchdowns in ensuing drives and returning an interception for a touchdown in the second quarter.
Trailing 26-3 at halftime, Bowie State began to battle back in the second half scoring touchdowns in their first two drives of the third quarter and scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter to make it a one possession game.
Ultimately, it was too little too late for the Bulldogs to get the win but they should be applauded for continuing to fight and nearly making the comeback.
Meanwhile, the Miles Golden Bears lost in what was a more competitive game against the Alabama State Hornets.
After giving up a touchdown on their opening drive, Miles held Alabama State scoreless for the next three quarters.
The Golden Bears scored their first points of the game on a touchdown in the final minutes of the fourth quarter to force overtime. Miles was a blocked extra point away from pulling off the upset win.
Both of these two Division II powerhouses showed — even in defeat — why they have been so dominant in their respective conferences.
2. Prairie View made a statement in its win over Texas Southern
If there was an award for the team of the weekend, the Prairie View A&M Panthers may be the leader of the clubhouse.
The Panthers put together a fantastic offensive performance in a 40-17 victory against the Texas Southern Tigers. It was the Panthers’ passing game that took center stage in their victory carving up the Tigers’ defense all game.
Prairie View quarterback Jawon Pass, a senior transfer from Louisville, played spectacularly in his season debut throwing for 354 passing yards on 25-for-37 passing scoring three touchdowns.
Pass’ two top receivers, Jailon Howard and Antonio Mullins, combined for 267 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Prairie View is one of only four FCS teams that had two receivers record over 100 receiving yards.
In addition, the Panthers added two touchdowns on the ground with Grambling State transfer Lyndemian Brooks and junior Raymond Graham each putting the ball in the endzone.
The Panthers’ performance was not flawless by any means, as they fumbled the ball four times in the game (losing two) and committed three turnovers overall.
However, if the Panthers’ offense continues to play this well over the course of the season, they could place themselves among the top teams in the SWAC down the stretch.
3. Old faces took an “L” in new places
This weekend saw four different teams make their debut in new conferences all unable to come away with victories.
One of the more under-the-radar conference debuts was that of the Allen Yellow Jackets who returned to the SIAC for the first time since 1969. Their return was not one to remember for the Yellow Jackets as they were dismantled by the Benedict Tigers 45-12.
Bethune-Cookman was the only team that made its debut in a new conference against an FBS opponent losing 38-28 to the UTEP Miners.
Florida A&M returned to the field for the first time since the 2019 season after what turned out to be its final season in the MEAC. It was in 2019 that the Rattlers finished with the best record in the MEAC at 9-2 overall and 7-1 in conference.
FAMU’s first game as a member of the SWAC did not go as planned as the Rattlers lost 7-6 against Jackson State in the Orange Blossom Classic.
Last but not least, the North Carolina A&T Aggies left the MEAC for the first time since joining the conference as one of its seven original teams in 1970.
The Aggies came into the season with high hopes of being a contender in the Big South coming off three consecutive MEAC championships. While that still could be the case, things did not get off to a hot start losing 29-18 to the Furman Paladins.
To be fair to these teams, it had been over 600 days since they had played their last game and were getting back in the feel of being on the football field. That, combined with the fact that they are in new conferences facing new competition, is a recipe for potential setbacks.
4. The Southern Jaguars suffered a setback, but they’ll be ok
The Southern Jaguars have been one of the most elite teams in the SWAC over the past few years appearing in four SWAC championship games since 2013 and winning one.
However, Southern came into the 2021 season without head coach Dawson Odums who became the team’s head coach in 2012 playing a huge role in the school’s turnaround into being a contender.
The Jags opened their season in the worst way possible losing 55-3 to Troy; the worst margin of defeat they had in a game since 2016.
This was the first time the Jaguars finished a game without scoring a touchdown since 2018 when they lost 20-3 to the Alcorn State Braves.
Southern entered this season as a serious SWAC contender coming off a spring season in which SU finished 4-1 with its only loss coming against SWAC championship runner-up Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
They were led by junior defensive end Jordan Lewis who won the Buck Buchanan Award after finishing the season with 27 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks.
In the game against Troy, Lewis was seemingly nonexistent only managing three tackles. Although a loss may have been expected seeing as Troy is an FBS team, the fact that Southern was not able to put up much of a fight is alarming.
We will learn more about the Southern Jaguars when they go against Miles College this Saturday on their home field in a game they will certainly be favored to win.
5. Alabama A&M and South Carolina State have a game of the year candidate
The Alabama A&M Bulldogs and South Carolina State Bulldogs put together what was not only one of the best games of the weekend but what could be the game of the year when the season is said and done.
This game was an offensive explosion with both teams combining for 1,024 yards of total offense, 11 offensive touchdowns, and 13 scoring drives.
There were five drives in the game where both teams traded scores back and forth including a stretch in the third quarter of three straight drives with a touchdown.
It was Alabama A&M that came away with the win, sealing the game with an interception on fourth down and avenging the SWAC loss of Alcorn State to North Carolina Central in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge.
If there are more games like this one ahead then we are in for an exciting 2021 football season.