Southern Heritage Classic Preview | Countdown to Biggest HBCU Game of the Year!

Southern Heritage Classic Preview | Countdown to Biggest HBCU Game of the Year!

Grind City Media’s Michael Wallace and Meghan Triplett preview this weekend’s big HBCU matchup between Deion Sander’s Jackson State and Eddie George’s Tennessee State in the 2021 Southern Heritage Classic at the Memphis Liberty Bowl and spotlight the bands, food, and importance to the community before breaking down the coach’s keys to victory.

Deion Sanders to ESPN: 'Show The Scores!' + Highlighting Lack of HBCU Coverage | Rise & Grind

Deion Sanders to ESPN: ‘Show The Scores!’ + Highlighting Lack of HBCU Coverage | Rise & Grind

Grind City Media’s Jessica Benson, Meghan Triplett, and CJ Hurt discuss Deion Sanders comments on ESPN yesterday talking about the lack of coverage surrounding HBCU schools and television coverage. The trio then talk about needing to add players’ last names on jerseys, then get to Michael Wallace’s Southern Heritage Classic interviews with Deion Sanders and Eddie George for what playing in the matchup means to them (11:51).

HBCU Huddle: It’s Southern Heritage Classic Week

On today’s show: In this episode CJ and Mike preview the Southern Heritage Classic, discuss the possibility of a SWAC/MEAC super conference, talk about the Red tails Classic and more from around the HBCU football landscape. They also discuss Michael Strahan’s donation to Jackson State and Rajah Caruth competing in a limited series of NASCAR Xfinity Series races in 2022.

Fred Jones Jr. Hypes TSU vs JSU Southern Heritage Classic: 'Like The Super Bowl' | Rise & Grind

Fred Jones Jr. Hypes TSU vs JSU Southern Heritage Classic: ‘Like The Super Bowl’ | Rise & Grind

Fred Jones Jr. joins the Jessica and Meghan on Rise & Grind to talk about the importance and legacy of this weekend’s upcoming Southern Heritage Classic between Tennessee State and Jackson State as well as safety procedures and tips to have an enjoyable tailgate.

Hideki Matsuyama Wins Masters, Grizz Struggles, Eddie George to TSU | 3-Point Stance

3-Point Stance: Hideki Matsuyama Wins Masters, Grizz Struggles, Eddie George to TSU

Grind City Media’s 3-Point Stance segment is a Skype-styled conversation between 2 friends, with 2 perspectives, on 3 topics from the weekend centered on sports, entertainment and pop-culture presented by MTN Dew. On Episode 69, Jon Roser and Meghan Triplett discuss:

0:00 2021 Masters
Hideki Matsuyama came out on top on Sunday winning the 2021 Masters, the first male Japanese golfer to win in the United States in history. What does this mean for Hideki Matsuyama’s brand, Japanese golf going forward, and highlights from Chris Vernon’s Masters Updates?

4:40 Grizzlies Weekend
Over the weekend the Memphis Grizzlies dropped two games back-to-back against the New York Knicks blowing a 15pt lead, and the Indiana Pacers nearly coming back from 18 down. What happened in these two games and is there silver lining to an otherwise deflating end to a 4-1 road trip and record-setting night by Jonas Valanciunas?

8:34 Eddie George
Tennessee State is reportedly bringing on Tennessee Titans great & Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George as their new head coach; setting the stage for an Eddie George vs Deion Sanders Southern Heritage Classic. How well do you see him fitting into a head coaching role and what impact will this have on HBCUs bringing on former NFL greats going forward?

MikeCheck: Aggies extend HBCU dynasty with third straight Celebration Bowl win, No. 1 national poll finish

MEMPHIS – At this rate, North Carolina A&T might as well just start scheduling Atlanta’s Celebration Bowl as the unofficial 12th game on its annual schedule.

For the fourth time in the game’s five-year history, the Aggies capped their season with a Celebration Bowl victory to claim a black college football national championship. They completed an unprecedented three-peat with last Saturday’s record-setting 64-44 win over Alcorn State in front of 32,968 fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

NC A&T player running
Photo by North Carolina A&T Athletics.

As a result, the Aggies (9-3) emerged as the No. 1-ranked team in both the Boxtorow national HBCU Coaches and Media polls released on Monday. Alcorn State (9-4) finished fourth in the final media poll after winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference three of the last four years.

Florida A&M (9-2) settled into the No. 2 spot in both national polls after posting the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s best record at 7-1, including a midseason win over N.C. A&T. But FAMU was ineligible for a conference title and postseason play because of NCAA sanctions. N.C. A&T finished the season with a 9-3 record and added the 2019 championship to national titles it also won in 2015, 2017 and 2018 to go a perfect 4-0 in trips to the Celebration Bowl.

“You can’t spell Atlanta without A&T,” Aggies players chanted Saturday as they put on national championship hats and shirts immediately after the final seconds ticked off the clock.

The Aggies and Braves combined to shatter Celebration Bowl records for points (108), yards (1,034) and touchdown passes (nine) – with a 49-point shootout highlighting the third quarter. Although both teams dominated their respective conferences the latter half of the decade, N.C. A&T left no doubt this time that it is indeed the king of black college football.

Sam Washington celebrating
Photo by North Carolina A&T Athletics.

Three of the Aggies’ four Celebration Bowl wins came against the Braves, with the previous two matchups in 2015 and 2018 decided by a combined nine points. But N.C. A&T was clearly the superior team and kept one of the NCAA’s most impressive runs at any level alive and strong.

“Throughout the year it can be taxing, but we know there is a huge reward at the end of the tunnel,” Aggies coach Sam Washington said of balancing the relief of meeting annual championship expectations with the joys of winning another title. “It’s worth the journey. What we did at the Celebration Bowl is historic. There are not many teams on any level at any sport that can say they won their sport’s top honor back-to-back-to-back, three years in a row.”

Indeed, it’s been one heck of a ride for Aggie Pride.




🏈 BOXTOROW Power Poll Top 10 Final Poll →
MikeCheck: NC A&T three-peats at the Celebration Bowl, HBCU Football Wrap up w/ Donal Ware

MikeCheck: NC A&T three-peats at the Celebration Bowl, HBCU Football Wrap up w/ Donal Ware

Michael Wallace teams up with Donal Ware of BOXTOROW.com at the conclusion of the Alcorn State, NC A&T game in Atlanta, GA to wrapup what they saw this season from HBCU football and what they expect for Fall 2020.

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MikeCheck: Alcorn State primed for third Celebration Bowl shot at defending HBCU national champ North Carolina A&T

ATLANTA – All things considered, 371 days is a long time to stew on revenge.

So that’s one reason Alcorn State isn’t dragging old baggage into Saturday’s trip to Atlanta, where its football season culminates for the third time in four years at the Celebration Bowl.

Another reason – and perhaps a far more pertinent one – is that coach Fred McNair’s Braves see this year’s venture as a new opportunity to cap a historic season with a crowning achievement all its own. Facing the same North Carolina A&T Aggies yet again with a black college national championship on the line doesn’t detract from Alcorn State’s mission.

Celebration Bowl Coin Toss
Photo by Alcorn State Sports Information.

The Braves shouldn’t be haunted by past history, including last season’s 24-22 Celebration Bowl loss to N.C. A&T on a controversial two-point conversion play that proved the difference in the outcome. As sweet as it would be to avenge that loss, Alcorn State has a new set of key playmakers in place who contributed little or nothing during last season’s setback in Atlanta.

“Actually, I didn’t play in that game last year because I was a recruit,” said junior defensive back Juwan Taylor, a junior college transfer who helped anchor one of FCS football’s stingiest defenses this season. “But looking at it, I think we just have to take care of the small things, stay healthy and we’ll be fine. I feel so blessed right now (to play in Saturday’s game). I can’t even explain it.”

That’s the kind of fresh spark the Braves have relied on throughout a turbulent season.

First, a group of key newcomers and backups filled major voids after a big stretch of early injuries to returning standouts, including ailments that sidelined the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s Preseason Offensive Player of the Year in quarterback Noah Johnson and All-SWAC running back De’Shawn Waller.

But looking at it, I think we just have to take care of the small things, stay healthy and we’ll be fine. I feel so blessed right now (to play in Saturday’s game). I can’t even explain it.

Juwan Taylor

And then, Alcorn State kept rolling with those productive replacements in Taylor, breakout quarterback Felix Harper and freshman tailback Niko Duffy as the team carried its momentum all the way to an unprecedented sixth straight SWAC East Division title. After knocking off West division winner Southern on Dec. 7 for the second consecutive year in the SWAC Championship game, the Braves (9-3) punched their return ticket to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the Celebration Bowl.

Alcorn State RB
Photo by Alcorn State Sports Information.

By now, Atlanta’s marquee HBCU showcase must feel like home for the Braves and two-time defending national champion Aggies (8-3), who meet for the third time in the game’s five-year history. N.C. A&T posted the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s second-best record at 6-2, but emerged because Florida A&M (7-1) was ineligible for a league title and 2019 postseason play while under NCAA sanctions.

I know very (few) champions that 3-peat, and I’ve been in this business for a very long time. It’s something that just doesn’t happen, so it’s special. We look forward to the opportunity of defending our title.

Sam Washington

So even in the midst of a six-year run that’s included five MEAC titles and a shot at a fourth HBCU national title, the Aggies are hardly taking their third straight trip to the Celebration Bowl for granted.

Alcorn State vs North Carolina A&T
Photo by Alcorn State Sports Information.

“It’s special,” N.C. A&T coach Sam Washington said of earning another chance to win it all. “I know very (few) champions that 3-peat, and I’ve been in this business for a very long time. It’s something that just doesn’t happen, so it’s special. We look forward to the opportunity of defending our title.”

Although both teams have dominated their respective conferences for much of the decade, the Aggies are justified in taking ownership of the rivalry between them. The Braves have won four of the past six SWAC championships, but faltered both times they faced N.C. A&T in the Celebration Bowl – first a 41-34 setback in the inaugural game in 2015 before coming up short again last year.

After taking care of SWAC business again, McNair believes his team is equipped with the championship mindset and approach to take the next step winning that elusive national title.

“The things that they do over the course of the week – they play hard, they work hard and it pays off,” McNair said. “I told them the biggest thing is when you become champions, you become a target and what it takes to become champions is hard work and dedication. I think these guys are full of that.”

Alcorn State stiff arm
Photo by Alcorn State Sports Information.

Both teams are back and reloaded with star power. The Aggies and Braves placed a combined 22 players on their respective MEAC and SWAC All-Conference teams. Each team also boasts one of four finalists for the 2019 Deacon Jones Trophy, awarded in February to HBCU’s National Player of the Year.

For the Aggies it’s explosive tailback Jah-Maine Martin, who led FCS nationally averaging 7.8 yards per carry, with nine different touchdown runs of 50 or more yards. Martin led the MEAC in rushing with 1,336 yards and 21 touchdowns to break NFL running back Tarik Cohen’s single-season school record.

For the Braves it’s Harper, who stepped in for the injured Johnson at quarterback four games into the season and never relinquished the job on the way to becoming the SWAC Offensive Player of the Year. Harper passed for 2,613 yards and 30 touchdowns against just eight interceptions.

I told them the biggest thing is when you become champions, you become a target and what it takes to become champions is hard work and dedication. I think these guys are full of that.

Fred McNair

Both prolific offenses are supplemented by nationally prominent defenses, with Alcorn leading all of FCS football in turnover takeaways (34) and topping the SWAC in scoring defense and total defense. Meanwhile, N.C. A&T owns the nation’s third-ranked defense, allowing just 270.4 total yards a game.

And if the game should come down to a special teams play, well, both the Aggies and Braves have arguably their respective league’s best placekickers on the roster. Corey McCullough set Alcorn’s career record with 44 made field goals, and N.C. A&T’s Noel Ruiz counts a season-long, 52-yarder among the 21 kicks he’s knocked through the uprights this season.

In other words, this year’s Celebration Bowl matchup is as close as they come. Not even the national HBCU polls could decide which team is tops in the black college ranks heading into Atlanta. The Boxtorow HBCU Coaches Poll has had Alcorn State ranked No. 1 over the last two releases, while the HBCU Media poll has N.C. A&T at the top with just two first-place votes separating the two squads.

Fortunately, the game will decide.


🏈 BOXTOROW Power Poll Top 10 Bowl Week →

MikeCheck: As NCAA D-II playoffs kick off for Bowie State and Miles, HBCU championship business at stake Saturday in MEAC and SWAC

RALEIGH, N.C. – When Donal Ware and I hooked up in Birmingham four months ago at the Southwestern Athletic Conference football media day, we were both fairly certain the 2019 Celebration Bowl was destined for a rematch of last year’s game that decided the HBCU national championship.

Now, with a month left before the SWAC and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions meet Dec. 21 at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, there’s a major issue at hand. Neither SWAC defending conference champion Alcorn State nor two-time defending HBCU national champion North Carolina A&T have settled anything yet in their respective conferences.

Both teams have the inside track in the SWAC and MEAC, and control their own destiny entering their final week of regular-season play, respectively. So there’s a strong chance both could end up right back in Atlanta next month, a year after the Aggies survived the Braves’ rally for a thrilling 24-22 victory.

There’s also a solid chance neither gets back, with N.C. A&T currently tied with South Carolina State atop the MEAC standings entering Saturday. If the Aggies defeat rival North Carolina Central on Saturday, they’d win the MEAC’s bid to the Celebration Bowl for a third straight season. A N.C. A&T loss coupled with a S.C. State road win at Norfolk State would send the Bulldogs to Atlanta.

Meanwhile, Alcorn State has locked up an unprecedented sixth straight SWAC East division title, but needs a win Saturday at Jackson State to secure homefield advantage for a second straight year in the Dec. 7 conference championship game. One way or another, the Braves’ opponent in the SWAC title game will be the winner of the Nov. 30 Bayou Classic in New Orleans, where Southern and Grambling State will be playing for the East division crown.

Bayou Classic

NEW ORLEANS, LA – NOVEMBER 24: Southern University Jaguars quarterback Ladarius Skelton (8) attempts to break free from Grambling State Tigers defensive back Danquarian Fields (7) during the 45th annual State Farm Bayou Classic game between the Southern Jaguars and the Grambling State Tigers. Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.


The combination of an Alcorn State loss to Jackson State on Saturday and a Grambling win over Southern the following week would shift the SWAC championship game to Eddie Robinson Stadium, where the Tigers beat Alcorn in overtime two weeks ago. So there’s plenty of business left to settle.

And if that wasn’t complicated enough, we’re headed down a path where the team that ultimately wins the nationally televised Celebration Bowl might not even be the outright HBCU national champion.

That’s because Florida A&M, the consensus No. 1 ranked team in Boxtorow’s HBCU coaches and media polls the past month, is ineligible for a MEAC title and postseason play this season while under NCAA sanctions. Still, should the Rattlers win Saturday’s Florida Classic in Orlando against rival Bethune-Cookman, they’ll likely maintain their premium poll position.

Hence, FAMU would have essentially run the table in the MEAC and staked its claim as national champs regardless of what happens on the football field next month in Atlanta. Welcome to the chaos that lines the path of HBCU football’s sprint to the finish line.

“We say it week after week – our goals are still in front of us,” insisted FAMU coach Willie Simmons, whose team is dealing with repercussions from NCAA violations committed under previous coaches, players and athletic administrators. “We show up and work every week with that mindset.”



That left Ware and I with plenty to unpack and dive into across the HBCU football landscape when we reconnected on the historic campus of Saint Augustine’s University. Ware is a syndicated sports and culture radio personality on SiriusXM, curator of the Boxtowrow HBCU national polls and play-by-play broadcaster for N.C. A&T football.

We’ve both covered black college football for parts of three decades and are HBCU graduates. We figured we’d seen just about everything – except a season that’s featured as much drama and as many stunning storylines as this one has delivered. And just keeps delivering.

In our latest Grind City Media HBCU Football video update, we break down the race to the Celebration Bowl, set the stage for No. 2-ranked Bowie State’s chances in the NCAA Division II playoffs and handicap the black college coaching hot seat as we brace for black college football’s postseason.

Yep, HBCU football is every bit as hot today as those July temperatures were back in Birmingham.


🏈 BOXTOROW Power Poll Top 10 Week 12 →
Bowie State surging, FAMU violation talk, Road to Celebration Bowl + More | HBCU Football Updates

Bowie State surging, FAMU violation talk, Road to Celebration Bowl + More | HBCU Football Updates

Grind City Media’s Michael Wallace and Boxtorow’s Donal Ware break down the latest and hottest issues across the HBCU Football landscape from Bowie State’s dominance and the ensuing drama with Florida A&M, to which coaches may be in the hot seat come January and the road to the Celebration Bowl.

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