Winner of Morehouse-Albany State Locks Up SIAC East
Written by Roscoe Nance, Special to BlackAmericaWeb.com Thursday, 13 October 2011 22:26
Morehouse coach Rich Freeman doesn’t pull any punches when he talks about the Maroon Tigers’ SIAC showdown Saturday with Albany State, the reigning Black College National Champion, on the Golden Rams’ home field.
The winner will have a lock on the SIAC East championship and a berth in the inaugural conference championship game that goes with the division title and most likely l a spot in the NCAA Division II national rankings.
With so much riding on the outcome, Freeman, who is in his fifth season as a head coach – all at Morehouse – doesn’t stop at calling the matchup a big game. He says “it is the biggest game of my career to this point,’’ and he doesn’t have a problem letting his players know that. That’s a departure from the norm in the coaching fraternity, where the cardinal rule is to downplay the importance of any one game and to “play them one at a time’’ to avoid placing added pressure on team members.
“One of things we do is we don’t deceive the kids,’’ he says. “Express what they’re getting themselves into. They’re the team to beat no question. They’re the reigning national champion. We call a spade a spade. We let them know the significance of the game. We just have to keep even temperament and produce on offense, defense and special teams.’’
Morehouse is 1-0 in the East while Albany State is playing its first division game.
Morehouse already has a pair of big wins under its belt this season and could move into the Division II Top 25 with a win against Albany State after receiving votes in this week’s poll Albany State was No. 12 in the rankings last week but dropped out following a 26-24 loss to unranked Lane.
Two weeks ago, the Morehouse beat neighborhood rival Clark Atlanta 30-2; last week the Maroon Tigers rallied from a 14-point second quarter deficit and defeated Tuskegee 17-14 in the Tuskegee-Morehouse Classic. The win snapped a seven-game losing streak against the Golden Tigers and was just their third victory in the last 16 games in the series.
Freeman expects the emotion from those victories – especially the win against Tuskegee – to carryover to the Albany State game.
“Our kids have good reason to believe if we can beat Tuskegee, we have a good chance of beating anybody else,’’ he says. “We’re convinced no mountain is too high to climb, and it is a mountain to beat Albany State. It’s going to be tough, but after overcoming what we overcame last week, we’re confident.’’
The Morehouse-Albany State matchup pits the immovable object – Albany State’s run defense – against the irresistible force – Morehouse’s ground attack. Albany State allows 85 yards rushing yards a game, 12th fewest in Division II. Morehouse is No. 26 in rushing in Division II, averaging 216.3 yards a game. Junior running back David Carter is No. 9 in Division II in rushing with 787 yards and 131.1 yards a game. Carter failed to rush for 100 yards last week for the first time this season as Tuskegee limited him to 99.
“Albany will be tough to run against,’’ Freeman says. “They will have the biggest front seven we’ve faced. (Coach) Mike White a brilliant defensive mind. He has a knack for stopping the run. At the same time we feel we have the best running attack in conference.
We will establish the run and hammer away. We will do what we do on offense and on defense play lights out and force turnovers. Turnovers will be the key to the game. We have to win the turnover battle.’’
The Maroon Tigers (5-1, 5-0 SIAC) have added incentive to beat the Golden Rams (4-2, 2-1 SIAC). Their 13-12 homecoming loss to Albany State on the final play of the game – after leading 12-0 entering the fourth quarter —cost them the SIAC championship, which the Golden Rams ended up winning.
“It’s in the back of our minds,’’ Freeman said. “They stripped us of the conference championship, and they did that on our home field and on homecoming. This would be vindication. We could put that loss behind us. We would be able to reward the seniors and vindicate the seniors from last year. They are still part of our family. It would be a good remedy to the pain.’’
Albany State coach Mike White is doubly concerned going into this matchup. First, Morehouse’s high level of play the entire season has gotten his attention. But it is his team’s lackluster performance while losing to Lane is even more worrisome.
“They’re playing extremely well,’’ White said of Morehouse. “If we don’t play well, we don’t have a chance of winning. We had some questionable things happen, but Lane outplayed us. I’m not sure if we were looking ahead to this week. We have some weak spots.
Defense is traditionally Albany State’s strength, but it has been a sore spot this season despite playing well against the run. The Golden Rams are last in total defense, giving up 376.8 yards a game, and pass defense, allowing 291.8 yards, and they are ninth in the 10-team conference in points allowed at 29.3 a game.
“We’re allowing too many big plays on defense and we’re playing inconsistently on offense. I’ve been at Albany State 28 years, 27 as defensive coordinator, and I’ve never had this situation defensively. We are thin. We don’t have a lot of wiggle room.’’
White is optimistic that playing at home will give the Golden Rams a boost and help them get off to a fast start.
“We’re still in the driver’s seat,’’ White says. “It’s huge being at home, especially versus playing on their field. We’ve been on the road three straight weeks (at Miles, versus Kentucky State in Indianapolis and at Lane). This is exactly what we need. We have to fire both barrels.’’
Hampton at Norfolk State: These Tidewater Virginia area rivals will have far more at stake than traditional bragging rights when they meet in the Battle of the Bay. Norfolk State is first in the MEAC, and Hampton is one of teams with one conference (South Carolina State and Morgan State are the others). This should be an offensive showcase. Norfolk State is No. 1 in the MEAC in total offense, averaging 406.3 yard; Hampton is No. 2 at 396.8. Chris Walley of Norfolk State and Hampton’s David Legree are two of the MEAC top quarterbacks. Walley leads the conference in passing efficiency with a 158.0 rating; he averages 238.5 passing yards a game and has thrown seven touchdowns. Legree leads the conference in total offense with 279.8 yards a game. Running back Takeem Hedgeman of Norfolk State (75.5 yards a game) and Antwon Chisholm (72.2 yards a game) of Hampton are the Nos. 2 and 3 rushers in the conference, respectively.
Prairie View A&M (4-2, 4-1 SWAC) at Alabama State (5-1, 5-0 SWAC): This is a possible preview of the SWAC Championship Game. Prairie View is first in the West Division while Alabama State sits atop the East. Alabama State has an eight-game regular season conference winning streak. The Hornets, led by quarterback Greg Jenkins, a transfer from Troy University, have scored 30 or more points in four of their six games.
Virginia State (3-3, 2-2 CIAA) at Elizabeth City State (4-2, 2-1 CIAA): Virginia State, the defending CIAA North champion, can throw the division race into turmoil with a victory against the first place Vikings. A win for the Spartans could potentially create a three-way tie for first place among them, Elizabeth City and Virginia Union, which plays at Johnson C. Smith in an interdivision game. Elizabeth City has a four-game winning streak, including 43-41 triple overtime triumph against Virginia Union last week. Running back Daronte McNeill has rushed for 159 per game during the streak.
Bowie State (3-3, 2-2 CIAA) at Lincoln (Pa.) (2-4, 2-2 CIAA)
West Chester (3-3) at Cheyney (1-5)
Georgetown (4-2) at Howard (3-3)
Virginia Union (4-3, 2-2 CIAA) at Johnson C. Smith (3-3, 2-1 CIAA)
Glenville State (3-3 at West Virginia State (1-4)
Tenn. State (2-4, 1-2 OVC) at Tenn. Tech (4-1, 3-0 OVC)
SW Baptist (5-1) at Central State (0-6)
Delaware State (2-4, 0-3 MEAC) at North Carolina A&T (3-2, 2-0 MEAC)
Georgia State (1-4) at South Carolina State (3-3, 3-1 MEAC)
Wesley (4-1) at Virginia Univ. of Lynchburg (2-4)
Tuskegee (1-4, 0-1 SIAC West) at Lane (3-3, 0-1 SIAC West)
SW Assemblies of God (3-3) at Langston (4-2)
Jackson State 5-1, 3-1 SWAC) at Miss. Valley State (0-6, 0-5 SWAC)
Texas College (0-6) at Panhandle State (0-6)
Lincoln (Mo.) (1-5) at Pittsburg State (6-0)
Clark Atlanta (2-4, 1-1 SIAC East) at Benedict (1-5, 0-1 SIAC East)
Shaw (1-5, 1-2 CIAA) at Fayetteville State (2-4, 2-1 CIAA)
Saint Augustine’s (2-4) at West Georgia (3-2)
Concordia-Selma (4-2 at Grambling State (1-4)
Fort Valley State (1-5) at Bethune-Cookman (2-3)
Morgan State (3-3, 2-1 MEAC) at N. C. Central (1-4, 2-2 MEAC)
Chowan (1-5) at Stillman (5-1)
Edward Waters (2-3) at Webber International(0-5)
Southern (2-4, 2-2 SWAC) at Arkansas-Pine Bluff (3-3, 2-2 SWAC)
Kentucky State (4-2 (0-1 SIAC West) at Miles (3-3, 0-0 SIAC West)
Winston-Salem State (6-0, 5-0 CIAA) at Livingstone (1-5, 0-3 CIAA)
Florida A&M (3-3, 1-2 MEAC) at Savannah State (1-5, 1-2)
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