Virginia State (2-0) vs Winston-Salem State (2-1)
Football, in 2017, is a passing game. But don’t tell that to Virginia State and Winston-Salem State. The two CIAA programs rely heavily on their run game, and in particular their star running backs.
Virginia State is led by Trenton Cannon, a 5’11, 185 pound gazelle of a running back who has been torturing defenses for the past couple of seasons. The Hampton, VA native rushed for over 2,000 yards in the 2015 and ’16 seasons while sharing time with running back Kevon Bellamy who rushed for better than 1,900 yards himself. With Bellamy having exhausted his eligibility, Cannon is the undisputed featured back for the Trojans. Through three games Cannon has accumulated over 350 total yards and three touchdown scores, including a 145 yard performance as VSU beat FCS rival Norfolk State in its opener for the first time in over a decade.
WSSU’s offense is centered around Kerrion Moore, a 5’9, 190 pound back who can dance and attack the line of scrimmage in short order. Originally signed to Duke, Moore has seen his role expand each year for the Rams, and he currently leads the CIAA in rushing yards (415), yards per carry (7.8) and touchdowns (5). His yards per carry average has him among the leaders in Division II football.
It’s a safe bet that both teams will crowd the line of scrimmage in hopes of stopping these two dynamic backs, so both passing games will see opportunities to catch the defense sleeping.
Virginia State has two quarterbacks who could see time as Cordelral Cook started both games, rushing for three touchdowns, while 2014 CIAA Championship Game hero Niko Johnson threw for two touchdowns in four attempts vs. VSU.
WSSU, meanwhile, has been Steady Eddie with Rod Tinsley all season, despite his issues with accuracy (42.5 percent) and turnovers (four interceptions in three games). A key for Tinsley may include his ability to find Canard Brown, who has caught just five passes for 22 yards after averaging 41.7 yards per catch and scoring a touchdown vs. UNC-Pembroke in its opener.