North Carolina Central wasn’t a very gracious host Saturday when the Eagles hosted in-state MEAC rival North Carolina A&T. The Aggies, No.1 in the HBCU polls and No. 24 in the FCS rankings, needed a victory to lock up the conference championship and an automatic berth in the FCS playoffs.
But the Eagles, picked in the preseason to finish eighth in the nine-team race, stunned the Aggies with a 21-14 victory that left five teams tied for the conference and gave Morgan State the MEAC’s automatic playoff berth by virtue of the conference’s tie-breaker process. Bethune-Cookman, Morgan State, North Carolina A&T, North Carolina Central and South Carolina State all end the season with 6-2 conference records.
The Eagles (7-5) earned a share of their first MEAC title since returning to the conference in 2007 with the win, which was their first against a nationally ranked opponent since they reclassified to Division I that same year.
“We didn’t win all the battles, but we won the war,’’ first-year North Carolina Central coach Jerry Mack said.
The Eagles withstood a 203-yard rushing performance by North Carolina A&T running back Tarik Cohen, who gave the Aggies a 7-0 lead with 35-yard touchdown run at 12:46 of the first quarter.
The Eagles reeled off 21 unanswered points for a two-touchdown lead midway through the third period. Quarterback Malcolm Bell (pictured) tossed a scoring pass to Jazz King; Andre Clarke scored on a three-yard run, and Bell scored on a 37-yard quarterback keeper. Clarke’s touchdown was the 30th of his career and the 15th this season. He ranks No. 2 in the North Carolina Central record book in both categories.
Cohen got the Aggies within striking distance of the lead with a three-yard touchdown run with 45 seconds remaining in the third period.The Aggies had an opportunity to tie the score midway through the fourth period, but Cohen fumbled at North Carolina Central’s one-yard line after a 19-yard run and the Eagles recovered the ball.
Morgan State 69, Delaware State 7 – Quarterback Moses Skillon threw a school record six touchdowns and the Bears set a school record for points in a victory that gave Morgan State a share of the MEAC championship and its first-ever FCS playoff berth. Skillon, who completed 16 of 24 passes for 261 yards, also rushed for 64 yards. The Bears tied Bethune-Cookman, North Carolina A&T, North Carolina and South Carolina Stae for the conference. They claimed the playoff berth by virtue of the MEAC’s tie-breaker procedure.
Bethune-Cookman 18, Florida A&M 17, 2OT – The Wildcats converted a two-point try in overtime in Orlando for their fourth straight Florida Classic victory and claim a share of the MEAC title. The Wildcats (9-3, 6-2 MEAC) will share the title, their fourth in five years, with North Carolina Central, North Carolina A&T, Morgan State, South Carolina State. Morgan State claimed the conference’s automatic berth in the FCS playoffs on the strength of the MEAC’s five-team tie-breaker. Bethune-Cookman kicker Haden Hoggarth sent the game into overtime with a 33-yard field goal. The game was scoreless going into the second half. Bethune-Cookman finally scored on Michael Jones nine-yard run. But Florida A&M (3-9, 3-5 MEAC) tied the score at 7-all on Damien Fleming’s two-yard quarterback keeper. Chase Varadore booted field goal to give the Rattlers a 10-7 lead.
South Carolina State 30, Norfolk State 20 – The Bulldogs earned a share of their sixth MEAC championship in Buddy Pough’s 13 seasons as coach with a home victory. The Bulldogs will share the MEAC title with Bethune-Cookman, North Carolina Central, North Carolina A&T and Morgan State, which claimed the conference title by virtue of a five-team tie-breaker. The game was delayed for 25 minutes following a fourth-quarter fight involving players from both teams. Quarterback Adrian Kollock led the Bulldogs (8-3) with 232 passing yards, giving Pough his seventh season with at least eight victories.
Virginia State 28, Long Island University Post 17 – The Trojans advanced to the second round of the Division II playoffs with a home victory that extended their winning streak to 10 consecutive games. The Trojans (10-2) trailed 17-14 and half but shut out LIU (8-3) in the second half. Running back Kavon Bellamy ran for 131 yards and two touchdowns for the Trojans. Virginia State’s defense came up with three critical turnovers on pass interceptions. Virginia State will play at Bloomsburg in the second round.
West Georgia 20, Tuskegee 17 – The Golden Tigers ran out of comebacks as they suffered a home loss in the Division II playoffs. Tuskegee rallied from14-point deficits to beat Albany State and Miles in its two previous games. But the Golden Tigers (9-3) couldn’t dig themselves out a 13-point hole against West Georgia (10-2). The Wolves scored second-quarter touchdowns on Seth Hinlsey’s one-yard run and quarterback Dallas Dickey’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Earvin Anumgba for a 13-0 lead. Tuskegee got in the scoring column on fullback Michael J. Thornton’s two-yard run with 3:18 remaining in the third period.
Trevor Wylie added a 45-yard field goal early in the fourth-quarter to make it a three-point game, 13-10. However, Dickey connected with Shaq Hall on a 26-yard touchdown pass to give the Wolves a 10-point cushion at 20-10. Thornton scored on another two-yard run with 2:37 left to bring the Golden Tigers within three points again. The loss ended Tuskegee’s eight-game winning streak.
Alabama State 30, Stillman 27 – The Hornets held on to beat the Tigers in the 91st Turkey Day Classic in Montgomery, Ala., in what may well have been embattled coach Reggie Barlow’s final game. The Alabama State Board of Trustees Friday voted to rescind a three-year contract extension for Barlow, who was asked to resign earlier this when the Hornets (7-5) were in the throes of a four-game losing streak.
The Hornets’ victory against Stillman, their third in a row, gives Barlow five consecutive seasons with at least seven wins, the longest streak in school history, and a 49-42 career record in eight seasons. Alabama State running back Malcolm Cyrus ran for 106 yards on 33 carries and ended the season with 1,662 yards, 43 shy of Brad Baxter’s single-season record (1,705) set in 1986. Cyrus finished his career with 2,904 yards.
Brigham Young 64, Savannah State 0
Howard 30, Hampton 29
Arkansas-Pine Bluff 20, Alabama A&M 19
Jackson State 34, Alcorn State 31
Tennessee State 48, Murray State 33