The Week Six MEAC Football Coaches’ Conference was highlighted by each coach ready to fine-tune their team’s performance once the MEAC schedule gets underway Oct. 21.
Howard preparing for physical Harvard team
After taking Big Ten foe Northwestern to the limit in a 23-20 loss last Saturday, Howard head football coach Larry Scott is pleased with the effort of the Bison, but there’s one more tough non-conference game ahead this weekend in Boston, as Howard takes on undefeated Harvard University.
“When you play an Ivy League school, you’re going to see NFL-style coaching from a scheme standpoint,” Scott said of the 5-0 Crimson, ranked 21st in FCS football. “This is back-to-back weeks of the same style of football we’ve been playing against. We’re going to have to be clean, be sound, and not hurt ourselves with penalties. This is a really good football team that we’re going to play.”
The good news is Howard (2-3 overall) can be proud of how they kept the Wildcats on their toes all game long, even after a slow start. Eden James, son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Edgerrin James, led the Bison offensive attack with 177 yards rushing, highlighted by a 64-yard touchdown run to help Howard close the gap.
“We fell a little short in the end, but proud of the way our guys competed. We heard all week about being undermanned, being bullied and pushed around, those things didn’t happen,” Scott said. “Our guys went up there and played a physical brand of football. We showed that just because we’re an HBCU and we’re from the MEAC that you’re not just going to push us around.”
Delaware State’s offense is clicking, defense will use bye to get ready for homecoming
The first three games of the Delaware State football team required an all-points bulletin alert for offense, but after averaging just over 36 points per game the last three weeks, the Hornets have that side of the ball figured out. It’s the defense where head coach Lee Hull wants to spend their bye week prior to the Oct. 21 homecoming game against South Carolina State.
“We’ll spend this week working on stopping the run,” Hull said after DSU surrendered 498 yards on the ground in a 51-44 barnburner loss at Central Connecticut State. “We’re going to self-scout, see what our tendencies are, try to figure some things out. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Our scheme is good, we have guys in position, they just have to tackle.”
The Hornets’ offensive output was aided by two special teams touchdowns by two different players – junior Wade Inge (85-yard punt return) redshirt sophomore Rahkeem Smith (96-yard kickoff return). Hull’s master plan of all three phases coming together is beginning to bear fruit.
“We talk about complementary football – everything’s got to work together,” he explains. “Special teams have given us a spark. Just having those two guys back there that can take it to the house anytime is great because our sideline is anticipating that something good can happen.”
As DSU (1-5 overall) prepares for MEAC play, Hull is confident in his team’s development and ability to play well in these final five games.
“I’m excited about where we are because our guys have shown no quit and they’re buying into what we’re trying to do,” he said. “A coach-driven team is a good team, but a player-driven team is a great team. Once they start holding each other accountable, that’s how we’ll win. Putting in new systems is going to take a while, but you can see the improvement, and I like the direction we’re going in. I like where we’re at. We’ll get things fixed over the bye week and play well down the stretch.”
After bye week, Norfolk State ready for Tennessee State homecoming
Following a tough 26-24 loss to North Carolina A&T on Sept. 30, Norfolk State head coach Dawson Odums and his staff used their bye week to get healthy and ready for their final non-conference test, a trip to Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee, to face Eddie George’s Tennessee State Tigers.
“Rest and recovery,” Odums said of the bye week strategy for the Spartans (2-4 this season). “We’ve had a tough, physical start to the season. We got a lot of guys back going into this week, it’s been a tough stretch but hopefully that will make us a better football team.”
Odums is aware of the talent the Tigers possess, most notably quarterback Draylen Ellis (159 passing yards and a touchdown) and running back Jordan Gant (105 rushing yards, two touchdowns), forming a one-two punch that took down Kennesaw State for their homecoming 27-20 last weekend.
“They’re a very good football team. They’re athletic, deep group of guys. Coach George has that team going in the right direction,” Odums said. We’re going into a great environment, it’s their homecoming, you’re going to get their best. We have to have the right mindset to go into Nashville and hopefully get a win.”
Odums is also excited to have support as fans, and the Norfolk State band will be joining the team in Music City.
“It’s always good to have support no matter where you’re playing. That’s one of the reasons you go to an HBCU; to play in that kind of atmosphere,” he said. “We’re looking forward to the opportunity to see if we can come away with a W, knowing we’ve got people behind us.”
South Carolina State wary of Tennessee Tech
Buddy Pough has coached long enough to know there’s no opponent you take for granted any week in college football.
After taking care of business against Virginia University of Lynchburg 56-6 last Saturday, the Bulldogs (2-3) will face a bit more resistance from Big South-OVC member Tennessee Tech this coming Saturday at Oliver C. Dawson stadium.
“We have a little bit of trepidation. I’m a little confused as to what we’ve seen on film and what their record is,” Pough said of the 1-5 Golden Eagles. “These guys do a really nice job on defense of getting after you. They had five sacks against Lindenwood, and they have an active defensive front that you need to have a good idea of where they’re at. It’ll be interesting to see how we match up against them.”
Pough joked that his last non-conference game as SCSU head coach was no time for a trip down memory lane.
“Y’all throw these nostalgic situations at me and I don’t know if I want to get involved. I want to see if we can ease on out of here with business as usual,” he said. “It will be important that we go out and play really well because this will be the last chance this year to represent our league. We really need to be careful and I’ve challenged our staff and team to have a really good plan.”
After this final non-conference test, it’s Pough’s 22nd and final trip through the MEAC schedule and he’s already aware that it won’t be easy against any opponent – especially the defending champions.
“I’ve watched North Carolina Central on film, but this league is going to be a rat race,” he said. “We’ve got six teams and there might be as much parity as we’ve had in all the years I’ve been here, and Central might be the best team we’ve had in all those years.”