It’s been an interesting season for HBCU football in the MEAC and SWAC. Both conferences have seen some new teams win championships for the first time in years.
Morgan State wasn’t supposed to grab a share of the MEAC title and land a spot in the FCS playoffs, but that’s exactly what happened this season. The Bears were predicted to finish 10th in the league, but they put together a magnificent season.
In the SWAC, Alcorn State won its first league championship since 1993. The Braves defeated Southern University to win the league crown. Now that the season is over, it’s time to recognize the top players and coaches in each conference.
Co-Offensive Players of the Year: It’s not easy to pick one player, especially when you have two sensational players who played so well this season. Howard quarterback Greg McGhee and North Carolina A&T running back Tarik Cohen shared this award.
McGhee, the Bison's senior field general, became the MEAC’s all-time leader in total offensive yards (10,168). He led the MEAC and was 21st in the FCS in total offense this season with 3,235 yards, including a conference-best 2,388 passing yards. He completed 222-of-399 passes for 15 touchdowns, ranking 28th in the country, and threw only eight interceptions.
Cohen led the league in rushing and recorded his second consecutive 1,000-yard season with 1,340 yards to help NCA&T to a share of the conference championship. He led the MEAC with 121.8 rushing yards per game, carrying the ball 197 times and scoring 15 rushing TDs in 11 games. He was also the conference leader in scoring (96 points) and total TDs (16) and finished second in all-purpose yardage (143.4 yards per game).
Defensive Player of the Year: South Carolina State defensive lineman Javon Hargrave was really tough to stop from making plays. Hargrave led the league and ranked third in the country in sacks with 16 (for a total loss of 199 yards) and ranked fourth in the FCS in tackles for loss with 23.5. He had 55 total tackles, three forced fumbles, one recovered fumble, eight quarterback hurries and two pass breakups this season.
Coach of the Year: Lee Hull did a terrific job in his first season as Morgan State’s head coach. Hull led the Bears to a share of the conference title, the first MEAC football title for the school. Under his guidance, Morgan State finished 7-6 overall and 6-2 in league play. Morgan State rushed Savannah State 69-7 in its final game of the season to grab the league's automatic berth to the FCS playoffs.
Co-Offensive Players of the Year: Like the MEAC, the SWAC had two outstanding players in this category with Alabama State running back Malcolm Cyrus and Alcorn State quarterback John Gibbs Jr. Cyrus led the league and finished third in the country with 1,662 yards rushing. He also scored 12 touchdowns. Cyrus is on the short list for the Walter Payton Award.
Gibbs is a big-time signal-caller. He led the Braves to the SWAC championship, completing 20-of-30 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns to lead Alcorn State to a 38-24 win over Southern University in the title game.
Defensive Player of the Year: Prairie View A&M linebacker Jerome Howard had an impressive season. Howard averaged 11.8 tackles per game, which led all defensive players in the SWAC. He finished fifth nationally in total tackles with 118 and second in the conference.
Coach of the Year: Grambling State first-year head coach Broderick Fobbs turned the Tigers into solid contenders for the SWAC title. A year ago, Grambling State finished with a dismal 1-10 record. Fobbs wasted little time in turning around the Tigers, who had a storied football tradition under legendary head coach Eddie Robinson. GSU finished this season with a 7-5 overall record and 7-2 mark in the SWAC Western Division.
NOTES: Alcorn State won the SBN Sports Black College Football National Championship. The Braves posted a 9-3 regular-season mark and won the SWAC title. This is Alcorn State’s first SBN National Championship in 30 years.
The Final SBN Sports Black College Football Poll
1. Alcorn State
3. Southern University
4. North Carolina A&T
5. Virginia State
6. Winston-Salem State
7. Grambling State
8. South Carolina State
9. Alabama State
10. North Carolina Central
The Boxtorow Coaches Poll named Alcorn State as its national champion, too.
The Final Boxtorow Coaches Poll
1. Alcorn State
3. North Carolina A&T
5. South Carolina State
6. North Carolina Central
7. Morgan State
8. Grambling State
9. Alabama State
10. Tennessee State
The SWAC has four players in the running for the Sports Network FCS Awards. Alabama State running back Malcolm Cyrus is up for the Walter Payton Award. Arron Baker of Alcorn State, Austin Howard of Southern University and Damond Jackson of Prairie View are finalists for the Jerry Rice Award.