Big games include homecomings
Homecomings take center stage this week as fourteen (14) of the special games that re-unite classmates, friends, and even enemies are on tap, the most in any weekend this season.
Among contenders looking to make sure homecoming festivities aren't spoiled is SIAC leader Albany State.
The three-time defending champion Golden Rams (4-2, 4-0) took over sole possession of first place in the conference last week with its big 14-0 shutout win over Miles and Lane's 31-14 loss to Kentucky State. They'll face Clark Atlanta (2-4, 0-4) in Albany, Ga., a team coming off its biggest win of the season, a 43-0 homecoming thrashing of George Mason.
CAU has played well despite its 2-4 record. Its biggest loss was a 13-point decision (22-9) to Kentucky State. The other losses were by single-digits to Fort Valley State (9-8), Lane (15-9) and Benedict (27-18). CAU head coach Ted Bahhur says if he team cuts down on turnovers they have a shot against Albany State.
"We've lost because of fumbles and interceptions," said Bahhur. "I think we can get the job done against Albany State. They have struggled offensively and our defense is No. 1 in the conference (220.0 ypg.).
"It will be a close game."
Albany State turned to back-up sophomore QB Kisan Flakes, a transfer from Illinois, last week to pull out the win over Miles. Flakes completed all three of his passes, two that went for touchdowns, in relief of sophomore starter Terrence Ransom. Ransom, a local product from Albany's Monroe High School, is expected to get the starting nod for homecoming in front of the hometown folks.
Albany State, always tough defensively, is also near the top in defensive stats. The Rams lead the conference in scoring defense (9.5 ppg.) and are third in total defense (250.8 ypg.).
Also in the SIAC, Miles (4-2, 3-1) is at Lane (6-1, 3-1), in a battle of two of the four teams with just one loss in conference play. The others are, Kentucky State (4-2, 3-1), who travels to Benedict (2-4, 1-3) and Tuskegee (4-2, 4-1), who has the week off before its big date next week with Albany State.
CIAA East Division leader Elizabeth City State (5-1, 3-0) also has a tough homecoming test, but its not its own. The Vikings, newly ranked 11th in the NCAA Div. II Southeast Region, have a date at Bowie State (3-3, 1-2) for the dangerous Bulldogs' homecoming.
BSU entered the season as one of the favorites in the CIAA East but has been hampered by injuries and off-field issues. ECSU quarterback Curtis Rich, Jr. is playing great for the Vikings so far and has put himself in the running for the conference's offensive player of the year award. The 6-3, 185 junior from Fort Washington, Md., has 14 touchdown passes with only one interception while completing 52.8% of his passes for 1,116 yards. He has also rushed for four TDs. His favorite target, WB Chris Carter, has 25 receptions, seven of them for scores. The Vikes, whose only loss is to the top-seeded team in the Region, Newberry (49-33), average a league-best 31.7 points per game.
Defensively, the Vikings have posted three shutouts including last week's 27-0 win over Virginia State and are second in the league giving up 14.5 ppg.
The other top CIAA games have defending conference champion and undefeated West Division leader North Carolina Central (6-0, 4-0) at former kingpin Fayetteville State (2-4, 1-2). NCCU is ranked second in the Southeast Region. Also, surprising Johnson C. Smith (5-1, 3-1), ninth in the first SE Region ranking, hosts St. Augustine's (1-5, 1-3).
In other games to watch, two-time defending MEAC champ, undefeated BCSP No. 1 Hampton (6-0, 4-0), has a key conference date at home with nearby rival Norfolk State (3-2, 1-2) in the Battle of the Bay Classic. The game will be televised by tape delay on ESPNU at 10 p.m. The MEAC schedule also features South Carolina State (2-3, 1-1) at Florida A&M (3-2, 1-1), winless North Carolina A&T (0-5, 0-3) at the Delaware State (3-2, 2-1) homecoming and resurgent Morgan State (3-3, 2-1) at the Howard (1-4, 0-2) homecoming.
In the SWAC, Jackson State (4-1, 3-0), flying high atop the East Division under new coach Rick Comegy, has a key date at home vs. Southern (3-2, 2-2) while West Division leader Grambling State (2-3, 2-1) travels to Little Rock, Ar. to face Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2-3, 1-2).
© 2006 Azeez Communications, Inc.