Early in the fall semester, MEAC football teams have spent time learning about themselves against out-of-conference opponents, and now the time has come for conference assignments. Leading into next weekend’s conference openers, here’s a look at how the MEAC’s six football members are making the grade.
North Carolina Central
The head of the class by far in the MEAC, the Eagles’ lone loss so far was to Pac-12 member UCLA, and they are 3-0 against the Coastal Athletic Association this season, including two straight wins against CAA contenders Campbell and Elon.
Quarterback Davius Richard is headed for the Dean’s List as a favorite for MEAC Offensive Player of the Year and likely nominations for the Deacon Jones and Walter Payton awards. As with any group project, everyone needs to contribute, and running back Latrell Collier, receivers Joaquin Davis, Quentin McCall, and Devin Smith have the Eagle offense in high gear.
Defensively, NC Central boasts an aggressive front seven led by linebacker Jayden Flaker and defensive tackle Kendrick DuJour. Its playmaking secondary is headed up by Khalil Baker, Jason Chambers, and JaJuan Hudson. If the Eagles can stay focused on their studies, a summa cum laude trip to Atlanta is on the horizon.
The Bison did just enough to earn a passing grade – and a share of the conference championship – in 2022, and now they’ll try to pick up the slack again following this weekend’s game at Harvard.
Howard’s big-play offense, sparked by quarterback Quinton Williams, running backs Eden James, Kasey Hawthorne, and Ian Wheeler, ranks second in the MEAC in points per game. The Bison’s strength lies in their versatility, making them unpredictable and hard to game plan for whenever they have the ball.
Senior defensive back Kenny Gallop Jr. leads a tough Howard defense that has held two FBS schools (Eastern Michigan and Northwestern) to 56 points combined, a great showing for a MEAC school against teams with bigger budgets and rosters.
Howard’s biggest test is their Nov. 11 debate with North Carolina Central at Greene Stadium. Could this be the year Howard becomes the teacher’s pet, or will it be another fall semester of good but not good enough?
South Carolina State
Wins over The Citadel and Virginia-Lynchburg cause optimism, especially with grad student Corey Fields leading the way at quarterback. Fields has overcome a foot injury to throw for six touchdown passes the last two weeks, and if he’s rolling, that makes the Bulldogs hard to stop.
Linebacker Aaron Smith is quietly putting together a MEAC defensive MVP season for the Bulldog defense. Head coach Buddy Pough’s last season could end with a graduation speech at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta if they can stay healthy and focused.
Dawson Odums has maintained all season that the Spartans will be authors of their own story, and the Spartans sit with the potential of a great essay still very much on their keyboards.
Senior quarterback Otto Kuhns has managed the NSU offense well, with the young backfield tandem of X’Zavion Evans and Kevon King and graduate receiver Andre Pegues earning high marks.
The Norfolk State defense has playmakers at all levels, most notably linebacker Terique Miles and DBs Joseph White and Devon Allen, making for a much-improved unit from the one that ranked dead last in the MEAC in every statistical category in 2022.
The mid-term exam for these Spartans is at Tennessee State’s homecoming this weekend. If they can pass that test with flying green and gold colors, the rest of the conference better watch out.
The semester began with so much promise for the Bears, knocking off Richmond in a game that showcased Morgan’s outstanding defense. It’s been a nightmare on and off the field for MSU since then, with close losses compounded by the homecoming week tragedy that still has the community in mourning.
Yet, as head coach Damon Wilson said on the MEAC coaches’ call this week, everything that Morgan State wants is still there for them. If they can rebound and make things interesting in this MEAC race, that could be a bigger win for the program and the school than the actual MEAC championship.
The Hornets’ offense has come alive in the last three weeks, averaging a robust 36 points per game, compared to just 5 points per game in their first three matchups.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Marqui Adams appears to be the answer head coach Lee Hull is looking for, as his 1,181 passing yards are the most in the conference for any quarterback. Receivers Jordan Hull, Ny’Ghee Lolley, and tight end E.J. Core give Adams choices while running back Marquis Gillis has established himself as DSU’s workhorse.
Even more stunning than the Hornets’ offensive upgrades are the defensive struggles of a unit that was tops in the MEAC last season. DSU’s defense allowed 498 rushing yards at Central Connecticut State, likely a school record that the coaching staff and players hope never to top this season or in the future. Hull attributed that to starters missing with injuries, so if those guys can get back, maybe DSU can salvage a good grade during homecoming week against South Carolina State.
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