The battle by the beach

MEAC-SWAC Challenge will be season opener for B-CU and Alcorn

BY DONALD HUNT
SPECIAL TO THE
DAYTONA TIMES

When Alcorn State University faces Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) in the 12th annual MEAC/SWAC Challenge, the game will feature two of the best HBCU teams in the country.

The MEAC/SWAC Challenge football game, which is owned and operated by ESPN, kicks off at 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4, at Municipal Stadium in Daytona Beach.(COURTESY OF B-CU)
The MEAC/SWAC Challenge football game, which is owned and operated by ESPN, kicks off at 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4, at Municipal Stadium in Daytona Beach.
(COURTESY OF B-CU)

The Black college football classic will kick off each team’s respective seasons on Sunday, Sept. 4 at Municipal Stadium in Daytona Beach. The game will air live on ESPN at 1 p.m.

Alcorn State, the two-time defending SWAC champion, suffered a tough 41-34 loss in its last game to North Carolina A&T in the inaugural Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl, a contest between the champions of the MEAC and the SWAC.

New Alcorn coach
The Braves’ new head coach Fred McNair, the older brother of Steve McNair, the late and former Alcorn State and NFL star, has replaced Jay Hopson.

Hopson left to become the head coach at Southern Mississippi in February. McNair is excited about facing B-CU in this early season non-conference matchup.

160901_dt_sports01b“It will be a good one,” said McNair, who was the Braves’ assistant head coach and the quarterbacks coach last season. “You know just the opportunity to be a head coach here and now playing against another MEAC school. We had a battle against North Carolina A&T in the Celebration Bowl back in December.”

He added, “I think it’s going to be a great matchup. I watched Arkansas-Pine Bluff and South Carolina State play last year in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge. I think it’s a good opportunity for Alcorn State to play in it. It should be a solid matchup between two powerhouse teams.”

9-4 finish
The Braves finished the 2015 season with a 9-4 overall record, 7-2 in the SWAC. On offense, Alcorn State returns junior quarterback Lenorris Footman and senior wide receiver Marquis Warford.

Footman threw for 1,106 yards with 14 touchdowns and just four interceptions. On the ground, he had 138 carries for 1,023 yards, including 11 TDs.

Warford had a spectacular year earning the SWAC Newcomer of the Year honors. He led the team with 36 receptions for 478 yards and four TDs. In addition, Warford rushed for 442 yards on 38 attempts while scoring six touchdowns.

Defensively, the Braves have two sensational players in senior defensive lineman Stacey Garner and senior linebacker Darien Anderson. Garner was a real force up front in 2015 with 43 total tackles and six sacks. Anderson led Alcorn State in tackles with 73 total and 43 solo hits.

Third for Wildcats
Bethune-Cookman posted an impressive 9-2 overall record last season, 8-1 in the MEAC. The Wildcats also earned a share of their fourth consecutive MEAC championship. This will be the third appearance for B-CU in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge. The Wildcats recorded victories over Prairie View A&M in 2011 and Alabama State in 2012.

B-CU has the makings of another formidable team under head coach Terry Sims, who was the MEAC Coach of the Year in his first season at the helm last year. Sims expects a stiff test from Alcorn State.

“It’s a great opportunity to face an opponent from the SWAC,” Sims said. “They’re a very good opponent. They didn’t lose a lot. They have good continuity coming back. I think it will be a good game. It’s a good opportunity for both programs. They’re very polished. They’re very well organized and they’re a talented football team.”

Solid players
B-CU will miss the brilliant passing arm of quarterback Quentin Williams, who threw for 2,171 yards and 19 touchdowns. However, the Wildcats have some playmakers on the offensive side with senior running back Michael Jones and junior wide receiver Jawill Davis.

Jones rushed for 562 yards and scored seven touchdowns providing a solid ground attack. Davis was the team’s leading receiver with 39 receptions for 788 yards and six TDs.

In the 2015 MEAC/SWAC Challenge, South Carolina State defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 35-7. The event serves as a huge showcase for both participating schools and has kept the strong rivalry going between these two legendary HBCU conferences.

The 2016 version will be the only regular season meeting between the MEAC and SWAC until the Celebration Bowl on Dec. 17.

For more information about the MEAC/SWAC Challenge, visit www.meacswacchallenge.com.

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