North Carolina A&T‘s Tarik Cohen and Morgan State‘s Herb Walker Jr. top the MEAC in rushing while Alabama State‘s Malcolm Cyrus is tops in the SWAC.
Through three games, Cohen and Walker are 2-3 in rushing yards in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) while Cyrus is sixth. (Alabama State played its fourth game Thursday night). Cohen, just a sophomore, has rushed for 528 yards, gets 10.0 yards per carry and is averaging 176 rushing yards per game.
Walker, a redshirt sophomore, has 460 yards total, gets 8.5 per carry and is at 153 yards per game.
Cyrus, a senior and the veteran of the bunch, now has 601 yards through four games, averaging just over 150 yards per game and 7.2 yards per carry.
Cohen and Walker are the only MEAC rushers averaging more than 100 yards per game. Ditto for Cyrus in the SWAC. And each has four touchdowns.
And neither is taller than 5-9 or approaches 200 pounds!
Cyrus is listed in the 2014 Alabama State media guide at 5-10, 180. But he‘s not that tall. His bio from 2013 says he‘s only 5-9. Who grows an inch at age 21?
Walker, nicknamed ‘Smurf‘ by his MSU teammates, is listed at 5-8 but has admitted on record to being at least an inch shorter. Walker checks in at 180 pounds.
Cohen is the runt of the bunch, listed at only 5-6, 172. 172? That‘s right, 172.
But don‘t let their size fool you. They‘re no pushovers. Far from it.
ON COHEN “He‘s one of those special players that you have an opportunity to coach maybe once in a lifetime,“ said A&T head coach Rod Broadway of Cohen at his weekly press conference Monday.
COHEN: Cutting on a dimeBroadway mentioned Cohen in the same breath as other outstanding running backs he‘s coached – CIAA Player of the Year and school career rushing leader, Greg Pruitt, Jr. at N. C. Central and SWAC and school career rushing leader Frank Warren at Grambling.
“He has a chance at being better than all of them,“ said Broadway. “This guy is special. He‘s a warrior. He gives us an opportunity to make a play here and there and win a ballgame. He‘s definitely one of the best players in the country.“
Seven times as a freshman Cohen garnered MEAC offensive player of the week honors en route to rushing for 1,148 yards on the season. Despite not starting until his fifth game, he was named the league‘s top freshman and first team all-conference. He was the first freshman in A&T history and only the third freshman in MEAC history to top 1,000 rushing yards. He led the MEAC at 5.9 yards per carry and 104.4 yards per game. He topped 100 yards in five of the six games he started including one 200-yard performance (vs. Florida A&M).
“We knew he was good but he was so small,“ said Broadway of the player recruited out of Bunn (N. C.) High School who also excelled as a sprinter in track. “But we didn‘t know was how tough he was. We got a good one.“
Last week, The Sports Network named him national co-offensive player of the week for his 234-yard, 20-carry effort in a 17-12 win over Elon. Cohen had a scintillating 81-yard fourth-quarter TD run that was the winning score for the Aggies. He also threw a TD pass off a halfback option play.
The long TD run vs. Elon was his second 80-plus yard scoring gallop of the young season. He scored from 80 yards out in the season opener vs. Alabama A&M.
Despite his stature, and with his strength and ability to cut on a dime and run away from defenders, Cohen reminds me of a certain running back with the Minnesota Vikings (minus the child beating allegations) who wears the same number 28.
THIS WEEK: at home vs. Chowan of the CIAA.
ON WALKER While Cohen got to show his stuff after five games in his freshman season, Herb Walker Jr. had to wait a little longer.
WALKER: Holding off a defenderWalker amassed just 399 yards on 99 carries and had just one score as a freshman last season playing behind freshman starter Lamont Brown III. And he began this year behind Brown again. He had five carries for nine yards in a season-opening loss to Monmouth. But when Brown was diagnosed with a knee injury following the Monmouth game, Walker got his chance. And boy did he take advantage of it.
A week later, starting his first game vs. Holy Cross, Walker set a new MSU record, carrying 29 times for 271 yards. He scored on runs of 46 and 2 yards in another close loss.
“That was his breakout game,“ said new MSU head coach Lee Hull on the weekly MEAC Teleconference, “and a new school record. Obviously, we don‘t expect him to get 270 yards every week but we do look for big things from him. He is a big part of what we do on offense.“
And as if to prove that effort was no fluke, last week vs. Bowie State Walker had 180 yards on 20 carries, a nine-yards-per-carry average. And perhaps more impressively, he had fourth-quarter scoring runs of 28 and 33 yards to put the game away not long after his late-game fumble put the Bears in jeopardy.
“He’s short in stature, but he’s thick,” Hull told the Baltimore Sun. “He’s a strong kid. So it’s not about how tall you are. It’s about your body weight in proportion to your height, and he’s a strong kid. He does a great job in the weight room keeping himself in shape.”
“I feel I’m tough,” Walker told the Sun. “I’m 5-7, but I feel like I’m 6 feet on the field. It really doesn’t matter to me.”
Toughness is a theme and a trait echoed by all three players and their coaches.
Walker is a product of the Ted Ginn Academy in Cleveland, Ohio run by Ted Ginn Sr. father of Arizona Cardinals player Ted Ginn Jr. Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith (Ohio State) and current Cleveland Browns‘ safety Donte Whitner are others that played under Ginn Sr.
THIS WEEK: At the Meadowlands vs. conference foe, Howard.
ON CYRUS Cyrus had an even longer wait. He had just five carries his freshman year before spending the last two seasons playing behind Isaiah Crowell.CYRUS: Breaks into the open
Crowell, a former SEC freshman of the year at Georgia, rushed for nearly 2,000 yards in his two years with the Hornets while earning all-SWAC honors both years. He‘s now opening eyes as a free agent running back on the roster of the Cleveland Browns and scored two touchdowns in his debut against my Pittsburgh Steelers two weeks ago.
But Cyrus’s role steadily increased over the past two seasons. He rushed for 459 yards as a sophomore and then put up 759 yards with six touchdowns last year as a compliment to Crowell. ASU head coach Reggie Barlow says there‘s really no comparison between the two.
“They‘re two different types of backs,“ said Barlow on Monday’s SWAC Teleconference. “Crowell is a big ole man (he weighs 225 pounds). Cyrus is not as big although he‘s put on a lot of weight over last season.
“Malcolm runs with power, he runs between the tackles, he‘s good in space and he catches the ball well out of the backfield.
“But the one thing about him is that he plays with grit. He‘s a feisty, country boy who loves to play the game and he plays it the right way,“ he said of the Autaugaville, Alabama native. In other words, he runs hard.
“I watch him and I’m like, ‘Man, Cyrus, he runs harder than anybody I’ve ever seen that size,” Hornets senior defensive tackle Justin Mitchell said to Duane Rankin of the Montgomery Advertiser. “And it always catches the defense off-guard because they go up with him soft, and that’s how he breaks all those tackles and runs. If you get him in the open field, he can still shake you, too. He’s a very versatile back. He’s something serious.”
Cyrus began the season running for 83 yards on 18 carries in a 51-20 season-opening loss to nationally-ranked Sam Houston State. Since then he‘s put up three 100-yard efforts.
He tallied 170 yards on 26 carries in an eye-opening 27-21 win over nationally-ranked Tennessee State. He followed that up with 171 yards on 17 carries with one touchdown in a 47-22 win over Mississippi Valley State. And on Thursday, he ran for 188 yards on 29 carries with scoring runs of 14, 2 and 11 yards in the 42-7 rout of Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
THIS WEEK: 188 yards, 3 scores in win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
All three runners have their teams playing good football. Morgan State and A&T are 1-2 in team rushing stats in the MEAC. Alabama State is second in rushing in the SWAC (behind Alcorn State). Both ASU and A&T are 2-1. Morgan State is 1-2 with both losses by three points.
The winner of the Morgan State/Howard game Saturday at the Meadowlands could be the fourth contender in the MEAC behind Bethune-Cookman, South Carolina State and A&T. A&T travels to Howard next Saturday (Sept. 27).
Alabama State appears on a collision course with Alcorn State for SWAC East Division supremacy. The Hornets will travel to face the Braves in two weeks (October 4).
In 2011, the Panthers of CAU surprised Albany State by forcing the Rams into an overtime period before CAU succumbed 19-13. They were led by Keith Higdon, now an assistant head coach and offensive line coach for Tuskegee who stepped in when CAU President Carlton Brown fired former head Coach Ted Bahhur after the Panthers suffered their fourth straight loss. After that game, I went to Higdon (who eventually will get the call as a head coach if he so chooses) and said it was “the greatest game CAU ever lost.”
Last Saturday, September 13, CAU overcame a 17-0 deficit to Lane , scored 20 unanswered points (helped when the Dragons contracted a sudden case of the “ boo-boo flu” and committed 3 turnovers, two of which CAU cashed in, giving Kevin Weston’s black and cardinal cats an important 20-17 overall and conference victory. In fact, its CAU’s best season opening bracket since 2011 when they knocked off Lane and Fort Valley to go up 2-1 and perhaps even 2009 when they beat Fort Valley, Stillman and Lane to go 3-0 and send students, faculty, alums, friends and enemies into a wild frenzy.Weston
You have to call this year’s win over Lane “the greatest comeback game that CAU ever won.” “ Turnovers cost us, “ Lane first year head coach Malik Hoskins told INSIDE. “When they converted early in the fourth period on the interception, that’s when (CAU) got the momentum. When we went up 17-0 through three quarters, we got careless with the football. I got to teach the men how to finish.”
Weston, in his second year with CAU, applauded his elevens and said he felt blessed to “have boys like this who just won’t give up.” “I didn’t dwell on the other team in the dressing room at halftime ( the Panthers were trailing Lane 3-0). I told then let’s focus on us. This is the same group I started with in 2013. ”
FreemanMeanwhile, dear old Mo’house returned to Atlanta over the weekend having lost for the fourth time in a row 35-17 to the Bison of Howard University. This is the 24th time the two teams have met since 1955. According to my humble research, HU has won 17 of those games and the two tied 6-6 in 1958. These last four were underwritten by AT&T and called the Nation’s Football Classic. This year’s contest was the final frame for the clash and Freeman admitted being glad to get out of DC without significant injury to any key players. In an SIAC media teleconference, Freeman said notwithstanding Howard’s depth allowing them to platoon fresh players on almost every series, his team suffered at the worst time; fourth quarter,11:23 to go , Howard forced to punt, Morehouse returns 23 yards, fumbles and hands Howard field position at the Morehouse 17. Then Howard QB Greg McGhee, who turned Morehouse’s defense every way but loose, threw his second TD of the game to lock it away for the Bison. Morehouse at 1-1 slips to third place in the SIAC east while CAU at 1-1 is atop the division. The Morehouse-Central State game to be played in Chicago Saturday as the 17th Chicago Classic is crucial for both schools. It could propel the Marooners into first or second place in the east depending on what CAU and Fort Valley do this weekend in Peach County Georgia. My predictions ? Keep reading.
ELSEWHERE IN THE CONFERENCE: Paine lost another close one to CIAA south leader Livingstone, 48-45. Gotta keep an eye on the Blue Bears, off to their most impressive start in 16 years. Meanwhile, don’t worry Greg Ruffin (Paine head coach).. After close calls with ‘Stone and season opening Shorter, a roaring win for the Lions is just around the corner……Texas Southern and Central State kept it hot in the Bahamas (mama) last weekend. Before a crowd of 7802 at the first HBCUX classic, the Tigers knocked off the Marauders 30-18….West Georgia surprised Reggie Ruffin’s Miles Bears 26-0. Surprised me too. What’s up Ruff?.......Fort Valley knocked off Savannah State 42-28 in Savannah. So what else is new?......A fortnight ago, Tuskegee senior quarterback Justin Nared read the riot act to his Wildcat confederates after they lost 30-17 to Alabama A&M. It worked. The Goldens knocked off Albany State 20-12 behind some impressive play from sophomore QB Kevin MinterLacey……..
XTRA POINTS: What happened to Clark-AU ‘s band? The 1213 fans who attended last Saturday’s thriller in Atlanta deserved to hear the beaters and blowers. In all my 42 years covering HBCU football, I can’t recall ever being at a game with no band for halftime. I’ve checked in with CAU to get an answer and all I have received up until post time for this column are voice mails with no responses…..Patsy and I got an opportunity to meet Lane’s Athletic Director Penny Minter.
The Jackson Mississippi native has been with Lane 14 years but has been AD for two years. She was an outstanding basketball star at her high school alma mater West senior High School. It was clear to my wife-photog and I that Penny is seriously dedicated to Lane athletics. Her choice to run the athletic department was a good one. Speaking of Lane, their former quarterback Chris Rini is now a volunteer assistant coach with the team…..Central State’s new coach Cedric Pearl was once an assistant at Alabama A&M under former head coach Anthony Jones. He learned from the best….
THIS WEEK’S INSIDE PICKS:
Morehouse over Central State CAU over Fort Valley Stillman over St Augustine Kentucky State over Va.State Benedict over Elizabeth City Lane over Paine Hampton over Miles Tuskegee over Winston Salem Albany State-open Last week’s INSIDE predictions… 4 right, 4 wrong
Morehouse shakes off two year opening season loss jinx, beats Edward Waters
I imagine ole Morehouse head coach Richard Freeman can sleep at night again since his Maroon Tiger elevens broke that two year jinx of season opening losses last weekend by beating Edward Waters 31-16 in Jacksonville Florida. Playing Edward Waters is no snap and Freeman can tell you about that first hand. Last year, he hosted the Tigers and came close to losing that ball game. He was also aware that this year he was going against new head coach Alvin Wyatt, the former pilot with the Bethune Cookman Wildcats.
He was also counting on running back Shelton Hamilton to return to campus this year 100%. The Montgomery Alabama native has been bugged with injuries since coming to the “House” three years ago. Well, if his performance in J’Ville is any indication, it appears he is living up to his words of assurance to Freeman. Hamilton rushed 24 times for 140 yards and scored two touchdowns….
TaylorSpeaking of Atlanta schools and running backs, CAU Montavious Taylor seems to be picking up where he left off last season. He rushed for 117 yards and one score in what turned out to be a losing effort for the Panthers who fell on the road 28-18 to the Marauders of Central State of Ohio. Taylor played high school ball in Atlanta at Carver High . His coach, Darren Myles says Taylor is headed for superlative status with CAU. “ I know he will come through for them,” he told INSIDE. “He’s a gamer. If his coach (Kevin Weston) tells him to run track, he will run track. There will be no sophomore slump for him. “…..
The Marauders have a new head coach in Cedric Pearl, replacing EJ Junior who was only there for one season (I wonder why?). Nonetheless, Pearl notched his first victory as HC and it was also a conference win which puts him (for the moment) atop the SIAC west. The Marauders are playing Texas Southern this weekend in the first HBCUX Bowl in Nassau, the Bahamas. The 411 INSIDE has read promises this first outing to be a rich one for both colleges and the islands with a slew of activities leading up to the first grid meeting between these two colleges………….Pearl
ELSEWHERE IN THE SIAC: Breakdowns in quarterback protection contributed to Paine’s 28-26 loss to Shorter last weekend. Shorter led 21-10 at halftime. Paine’s quarterbacks were sacked four times. To his credit, one of them, Loranzo Hammond threw for 131 yards and two scores ….
Tuskegee was upended 30-17 by Alabama A&M , spoiling the home and season opener for the Golden Tigers. Although Tuskegee QB Justin Nared threw for 217 yards and two touchdowns, the senior reportedly chastised his teammates for not “performing as a team.”…….
Benedict exploded with a 26 point second half while blanking their host Lane College and returned to Columbia, South Carolina with a 39-7 mark. It allowed them to get a bit beyond their embarrassing season and home opening loss to South Carolina State a fortnight ago 63-0. Benedict’s offensive thrust came via quarterback Cameron Stover who passed for 188 yards and scored twice…
Last year, Fort Valley journeyed to Delta State and surprised them with a win. Apparently, the Statesman figured turnabout was fair play. They defeated the Wildcats 56-13, spoiling the season and home opener for the Wildcats and handing them their worst drubbing since 2009 when they were beaten by Southern 55-23 and their worst opening season start since 2008 when they lost 56-3 versus Valdosta State…….
West Alabama’s 30-7 shot in the first half was too much for Stillman to overcome. They fell to visiting West Alabama 44-20. A 13 point fourth quarter by the Tigers was too little, too late. Stillman starting quarterback Josh Straughan’s 179 pass completions and two scores was not enough. The junior from Washington State was sacked four times…..
Miles took CIAA contender Shaw to the woodshed last Saturday, taking a 21-0 lead at half, tacking on nine more points in the second and turned Shaws’ Bears into teddy bears by sending them back to Raleigh, North Carolina with a 30-7 loss. Miles piled up 463 yards of offense and sacked Shaw’s quarterback Trey Folston 3 times…..
An 85 yard kickoff return by Valdosta State midway the fourth period rubbed salt in a wound the Blazers had already inflicted against Albany State in the first three quarters to put a cherry atop a 38-10 pasting of the Rams in Valdosta. Valdosta led 17-0 at the half. ASU’s Frank Rivers finished the game passing for 164 yards and a score but was sacked three times…….
XTRA POINTS: Howard University graduate Chuck Walton has stepped into high cotton as the Voice of the Bison this season. He was adorned to the post two years ago by Ed Hill, the dean of HBCU sports information directors and one of its sharpest. If Ed puts his stamp on the brother, he’s got to have it going on…
Jimmy Joe, brother of former FAMU and Miles College head coach Billy Joe, is now receivers coach at Edward Waters……
Thanks to my brother-in-law’s wedding, I journeyed to Oklahoma last weekend where Langston University is domiciled. The wedding was in Tulsa, home to one of the college’s two satellite campuses. It’s located in an area once called “black wall street” which at one time comprised some 600 businesses of all kinds. In 1921, the neighborhood of prosperity was wiped out in a so-called race riot brought on amid published allegations of a black man raping a white elevator operator. The area is also known as the hometown of the ultra successful GAP band (GAP was acronym for Greenwood, Archer and Pine Streets where band members were born and raised. …. Langston’s other satellite center is in Oklahoma City, home to an impressive museum of Cowboy history and artifacts. The building also features a display of the Buffalo Soldiers and a surprising layout of movies featuring African-American cowboy film stars. I do think,however, the museum wants for a whole wing dedicated to their exploits as they do for native Americans, Hawaiians and women…
Former Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims’ barbeque restaurants have spread beyond the boundaries of Oklahoma and are popping in Michigan. Is Atlanta next?
Naming Tony Lamarr as head b-ball coach at CAU a wise choice
Provided the decision-makers at Clark-Atlanta University never make another wise choice, their decision to take the interim off basketball coach Tony Lamarr was worthly of applause. I was convinced that the Stone Mountain Georgia native was the Panthers’ next head coach when he and the fives went on a 9-1 winning frenzy between January 11 and February 6 of this year. Now that Tony has been given the mantle to lead, let’s see what heights he can take the school to…..Lamarr
Some of you readers, me notwithstanding, have wondered why the honchos at the SIAC decided to take their championship grid match to Montgomery, Alabama, which for years was referred to as the “cradle of the confederacy” and hosted the annual Blue-Gray College All –Star game from 1939 to 2001. For many of those years black faces were absent because that’s the way the games’ principle organizer, the Lions Club, wanted it. What’s the connection to the SIAC and the ‘Bama capital aside from its close proximity to the hallowed halls of Tuskegee University about 30 miles to the south and perhaps the fact that Alabama State was once a member of the SIAC until it left in 1982 when it elevated its program to Division I and joined the SWAC?
Here’s my thinking about the move.
Montgomery and Birmingham to its northwest have been clamoring to attract more sporting events to their towns. They, no doubt, were aware that the SIAC was disappointed with the lack of support the city of Atlanta offered both their basketball tourney and their football championship which accounts for why they pulled up stakes, returned the hoop tourney to the “Ham” and then floated rumors that the grid game would soon grow wings as well. I’m still not sure if the move will mean more fans to the three year old contest, but with three of the conference’s eleven football playing schools domiciled in the banjo state (Miles, Tuskegee, Stillman), they have as much of a chance as they did in Atlanta. So, you and I may ask why but perhaps SIAC Commish Greg Moore and his staff responded with, why not?
-0- Merchant INSIDE offers belated condolences to the family of Dr. Frank Merchant. Although he was on the staff at Fayetteville State University when he succumbed last year, he spent many years as the defensive coordinator and physical education teacher at Morehouse College in the mid to late 1960s and early 70s. For a season, he served as head football coach. Many of his former defensive players at Morehouse were discussing him a few weeks ago. I had learned through the street committee that the hard nosed coach and former pro football player (the New York Titans of the American Football League) had died but didn’t confirm it myself until several weeks later thanks to the sports information staff at Fayetteville. Frank, you were sandpaper tough on your players and your students in PE (I know, I was one of them in 1968) but the guys loved you for it. RIP.
Benedict College, under James Woody, will open the 101st football season of the SIAC Saturday, August 30th at home against Buddy Pough’s big “Dawgs” of South Carolina State. The Palmetto Classic kicks off at 5pm. I am excited about the 2014 slate and have several players I want to watch closely. One is Clark-AU running back Montavious Taylor. In his freshman season last year, the Atlanta native was the SIAC’s second leading rusher with with 681 yards and seven touchdowns. I will also keep a close watch on Albany State quarterback Frank Rivers, the former Grambling passer, who last year finished second in conference passing with 1898 yards and 18 touchdowns. Another CAU panther I will be putting the binos on is senior linebacker Bre’Nard Williams. Last year, Williams broke into the top 25 national NCAA Division II rankings with 105 tackles but finished atop the conference stats with 93 total tackles, 60 of them solo shots…Rivers
…Meanwhile Morehouse senior running back Shelton Hamilton says he would love to see the Marooners represent the conference’s eastern division at this year’s SIAC championship in Montgomery because, among other things, he is a native of Montgomery. Plagued with injuries the first three years of his college career, he says he is reporting to camp this season 100%..........
XTRA POINTS: An Atlanta group calling themselves the Atlanta Retired Athletes recently honored the city’s first six African American high school athletic directors . The six, who piloted the ATL’s six black high schools during the period of segregation , were Raymond “Tweet”Williams (Clark-AU), LC Baker (Clark-AU), Alexander Shepherd (Morris Brown), John Merkerson (Morris Brown), Raymond Wainwright (Clark-AU), and T. Herman Graves (Morehouse). Baker, considered the “granddaddy” of them all, coached at Atlanta’s Booker T Washington High from 1931 to 1967 and wound up coaching two of the six honorees. A video was also produced of the athletic exploits of the honorees which brought the more than 400 family and friends attending the luncheon August 9th to their feet with shouts, claps and tears of joy. A plaque honoring the sextet will soon grace the walls of the Atlanta school board and the Atlanta City Council’s chambers…..
There are two new sports information directors within the bosom of the conference. Former Grambling assistant LaMonica Scott is now SID at Tuskegee . Zena Lewis, a former assistant at Clark-AU is now running the media show for the SIAC………