This HBCU Football Rundown will focus on how the CIAA race looks with three weeks left in the regular season.
The conference is heading toward its Nov. 12 championship game in Salem, Va. that will pit champions from each of its two divisions.
HBCU Football Rundown – CIAA North
Virginia Union’s 27-24 overtime win at three-time North Division and CIAA champion Bowie State Saturday has propelled the undefeated Panthers (7-0, 5-0 CIAA) to the forefront of the CIAA race. Beating BSU for the first time since 2016 was a big hurdle in terms of claiming division and conference titles. But it’s not the last one.
The Panthers hit the road Saturday (12 noon) to play at Lincoln (Pa.). The Lions (2-4, 1-3 N), under fourth-year head coach Josh Dean, are much improved over a year ago. VUU will return home next week (Oct. 29) to play Chowan (4-3), who currently sits behind the Panthers in the North at 4-1. VUU plays at Virginia State (4-3, 3-2 N) in their traditional season-ender on Nov. 5.
With VUU wins over VSU and BSU in the bag, a win this week at Lincoln will eliminate everyone except Chowan from N. Div. title contention. Chowan has a key date at Bowie State (1 p.m.) this week.
New-look Lincoln (Pa.) in 2022
Lincoln is third in the CIAA in scoring defense (18.2 ppg.) behind FSU (12.0) and VUU (14.2). It is also third in rushing defense surrendering just 110.7 yards per game and third in passing defense (135.3 ypg.)
The Lions are led on offense by freshman QB Isaiah Freeman who has passed for 1,100 yards (186.7 ypg.) with 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. Sophomore running back Amir Gerald is third in CIAA rushing stats (89.5 ypg., 7.3 yards per carry.).
Bottom line, this is not the same Lincoln team that was shutout by VUU (32-0) last season.
Lincoln lost to four-time South Division champion Fayetteville State 19-7 on Sept. 17. In that game, the Lions gave up four FSU field goals and a lone touchdown after a fluke punt return fumble. Lincoln out-rushed (221 to 143 yards) and out-gained (330 to 256 yards) the Broncos. VUU narrowly escaped with a 31-28 win over FSU a week later (on Sept. 24).
The Lions fell to FSU 46-9 in 2021.
Lincoln’s other conference losses this season were two-point decisions to Chowan (16-14) and to Elizabeth City State (21-19). Their lone conference win was 29-28 over Johnson C. Smith.
VUU locked and loaded
Head coach Dr. Alvin Parker’s Panthers signaled early that they are also not the same team from a year ago. After a 77-0 shellacking of Virginia-Lynchburg to open the season, they went to 2021 Div. II national runners-up Valdosta State and handed the Blazers a shocking 45-40 beating. Just a year ago, Valdosta State came to Richmond and administered a 51-7 whipping on the Panthers.
VUU is now up to 10th (from 11th) in this week’s AFCA NCAA Div. II Coaches Poll. The Panthers are 12th nationally (up from 15th) in the D2football.com poll.
They feature the leading rusher in CIAA and NCAA Div. II football in 5-7, 180-pound sophomore Jada Byers. He leads the nation in rushing yards (1,313), rushing yards per game (196.1) and is tied for first in rushing touchdowns (14). He is the workhorse of an offense that tops all of Div. II in scoring at 48.6 points per game. Grad senior QB Jahkari Grant runs the offense which also features freshman RB Curtis Allen (8 rushing TDs) and junior wide receiver John Jiles (22 rec., 329 yds., 5 TDs).
Redshirt freshman linebacker Shamar Graham leads VUU in tackles (46, 32 solos) while junior DE Armonii Burden, who leads the CIAA with seven sacks and redshirt sophomore Isaac Anderson (4.0 sacks) lead the pass rush.
Getting by VUU will be a tall task for Lincoln.
HBCU Football Rundown – CIAA South
In the South, four-time champion Fayetteville State (5-2, 4-1 South) has a two-game lead with three games left. The Broncos, under head coach Richard Hayes Jr., have all but wrapped up their fifth-straight division title and championship game berth.
FSU plays Saturday in Charlotte, N. C. at homecoming for Johnson C. Smith (2-4, 2-3 S). A win vs. JCSU or in games at home vs. Shaw (on Oct. 29) or on the road at Winston-Salem State (Nov. 5) officially wraps up the division title for FSU.
This week’s CIAA schedule
Lincoln (PA) vs. Virginia Union in Lincoln University, PA. 12n
Elizabeth City State vs. Virginia State in Elizabeth City, NC. 1p
Bowie State vs. Chowan in Bowie, MD – HBCUGO 1p
Saint Augustine’s vs. Winston-Salem State in Raleigh, NC 1p
JC Smith (HC) vs. Fayetteville State in Charlotte, NC – AspireTV 1p
Shaw (HC) vs. Livingstone in Durham, NC 1p