HBCU Teams Score Big Upsets

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The Vanderbilt Commodores totally shut down what was supposed to be a formidable Middle Tennessee State University offense Saturday night in Murfreesboro, posting a decisive victory.

There isn’t much parity in the world of college football. The “Power 5” conferences dominate in terms of attention and impact, and the small colleges have to struggle to even keep their doors open, particularly when it comes to every other sport except football. While HBCU schools have a glorious legacy of their own that they strive to maintain, integration forever ended the days when a Grambling, TSU, or FAMU could have gone head to head with any team in the nation and held their own.

In fact a couple of years ago the New York Times ran a commentary column urging that all FBS schools no longer be permitted to schedule FCS schools. Their rationale was that the gap is so wide between these programs that it’s nothing more than an exercise in futility for the smaller schools, as well as a payday. Setting aside the fact that many HBCU institutions have been able to balance their athletic budgets on the strength of a guarantee game, according to the Times it was simply time for this practice to end.

But while it is unlikely most of the time that an HBCU can beat an FBS team, especially not one from a Power 5 conference. it doesn’t mean that it is absolutely impossible. Last week two HBCU teams defied the odds and beat FBS schools on the road, an event that absolutely no one would have predicted.

The first upset occurred Aug. 31 in Atlanta. Tennessee State University was playing Georgia State in the first game being held in the newly renamed (formerly the Braves home park) Georgia State stadium. Georgia State was once an FCS school, but they have recently upgraded, and this gala opener was widely expected to be a signature win. But no one told Coach Rod Reed his team didn’t have a chance.

They scored a 17-10 victory, led offensively by new QB Treon Harris, and defensively by the duo of Vincent Sellers and Chris Collins Sellers had 10 tackles, one for a loss, while Collins had 12 tackles, nine solo, as the Tigers’ defense held Georgia State to 273 yards of total offense and 10 points.

Then on September 2, Howard University achieved what many are calling the “greatest upset in college football history.” A 45-point underdog to Las Vegas, Howard under new head coach Mike London, won an exciting 43-40 victory paced by a spectacular effort from QB Caylin Newton,

The younger brother of former NFL MVP QB Cam Newton, Caylin ran for 190 yards and passed for 140, accounting for three touchdowns. After the game was over, a lot of people were not only stunned, but quite a few didn’t even realize that Howard had a football program. They have been much better known in the past for having a world class soccer program that has competed for national championships.

Obviously, on most days, the bigger schools are going to beat the smaller ones. But what TSU and Howard did last week was remind people that competition is never a sure thing, and that games are always played on the field rather than paper. Their wins put both schools in the national conversation, and gave HBCUs some major attention, as well as scoring a victory for the little guys.

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