The annual MEAC/SWAC Challenge is now in the books prematurely as bouts of lightning forced the game to be called off with 2:12 remaining in the game.
Both teams persevered through the adversity the best they could before Alabama State walked away victorious defeating Howard 23-13.
This snapped a two-game MEAC/SWAC Challenge losing streak for the SWAC, giving them their first win since 2018.
Here are five takeaways from a long night (and morning) in Atlanta.
Lightning, Lightning go away
Prior to the start of the MEAC/SWAC Challenge, it seemed like a wonderful night of football was ahead with sunny skies beaming throughout the stadium and excitement palpable.
However, 10 minutes before kickoff, a bout of lightning forced the game’s start to be delayed. After almost an hour, the game finally kicked off. Howard opened with a methodical offensive drive that ended in a field goal.
Fast forward to Alabama State’s second offensive possession and the game faced yet another with a weather delay.
This one, however, was not as long as play was able to resume without a hitch for the remainder of the half and the third quarter.
Just when it looked like the game was going to conclude after all of its major hiccups, one final lightning delay put an end to what was arguably the most bizarre HBCU football game in recent memory.
From the opening kickoff to the game’s official conclusion, the game lasted 5 hours and 40 minutes in length in real-time setting a new record for the longest MEAC/SWAC Challenge game.
This is the second time a game has had to be suspended due to inclement weather. The first was a 2016 contest between Bethune-Cookman and Alcorn State that was called off in the second quarter.
Alabama State’s defense puts pressure on Howard
One of the most glaring problems Howard had to overcome was their inability to contain the swarming defense (no pun intended) of Alabama State.
The pressure of Alabama State’s defense forced Bison quarterback Quinton Williams out of the pocket on multiple occasions throwing off the rhythm between him and his receivers.
The Hornets’ defense held the senior quarterback to just 138 passing yards without a single touchdown and forced an interception.
Alabama State also made it rough on Howard’s ground game, forcing them to go deep into their playbook to move the ball.
Wide receiver Kasey Hawthorne actually led the team with 39 rushing yards on four attempts. The team’s two leading rushers from last season, Jarett Hunter and Ian Wheeler, combined for 55 rushing yards on 14 attempts.
Demarius Davis has big performance in team debut
Alabama State got a big performance from their transfer redshirt freshman quarterback Dematrius Davis, who was also named the game’s offensive MVP.
The Auburn recruit was efficient through the air completing 16-of-23 passes for 184 passing yards and throwing a touchdown.
He was also effective on the ground keeping plays alive with his feet.
Davis recorded 37 rushing yards on nine attempts, leading his team with 4.1 yards per carry. If this performance is any indication, the future is certainly bright for an Alabama State offense that will have four years of the young freshman running the offense.
Alabama State overcomes a troublesome second quarter
Alabama State can count themselves fortunate to have won this game in spite of a second quarter which was troublesome, to say the least.
The Hornets entered the second on a strong note capping off a 7-play drive, scoring their second touchdown of the game to go up 13-3.
On their next offensive drive, Alabama State turned the ball over on a forced fumble by Howard defensive end Marcus Brown.
The entire quarter was marred by Alabama State penalties — seven for 70 yards.
The biggest stop of the game came after a Hornets miscue
Alabama State rectified a disastrous second quarter by making the biggest stop of the game.
With 24 seconds remaining in the first half, Alabama State set up to punt to Howard after failing to convert on third-and-20.
Howard brought an all-out blitz and Jevin Jackson was able to block the punt that was eventually recovered by Kasey Hawthorne.
The return looked like an easy touchdown for Hawthorne with nothing between him and the end zone but grass. However, Hornets defensive tackle KJ Stokes stopped a would-be score.
Alabama State sets a MEAC/SWAC Challenge record
In the third quarter, the Alabama State Hornets scored on a 21-yard rush by Jacoby Merritt capping off a 99-yard drive to make the score 20-6.
The drive set a new MEAC/SWAC Challenge record for the longest offensive drive in yards, beating the previous record held by North Carolina A&T.
Things looked bleak for the Hornets when Howard downed a 40-yard punt on the one-yard line. After slowly churning the ball down the field, backup quarterback Myles Crawley sped up the process by completing a 61-yard pass to Isaiah Scott to put the Hornets in Bison territory.
This was an important drive coming off three consecutive possessions in which they put up minus-2 yards of total offense. The Hornets swung the momentum completely in their favor helping the put the finishing touches on their victory.