Weather delays and lightning extend game time by almost three hours
In what will go down as arguably the longest MEAC/SWAC Challenge in series history, starting at 7:38PM and ending at 1:18AM which included three weather delays totaling two hours, the Alabama State Hornets made good on first-year head coach Eddie Robinson’s Jr. promise to “restore order” as the preeminent HBCU conference in the country with a convincing 23-13 win over the Howard Bison in front of 21,088 enthusiastic fans and supporters in the Cricket MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff at Center Parc Stadium in Atlanta, GA.
The opening HBCU game of the 2022 college football season, which started at 7:38PM, was marred with delays due to lightning in the area. At approximately 1:18AM on Sunday morning roughly five and a half hours later, the contest was inevitably called over with 2:12 remaining in the fourth after a fourth lightning strike was observed in the downtown Atlanta area.
The Hornets, making their third appearance in the annual event, earned their first win in the game and snapped a two game MEAC win streak dating back to 2018. More importantly, they inched the SWAC closer to their HBCU conference foe, who before this game held a commanding 11-4 overall lead in the series.
MEAC/SWAC Challenge SWAC MVP Damatrius Davis, led the Hornets attack with 224 yards of total offense (187 passing 1TD, 1INT, 37 rushing) going an efficient 17-24 and spreading the ball around to eight different Hornets receivers.
The Bison, making their first ever appearance in the game, were led defensively by linebacker Jevin Jackson (MEAC MVP) who totaled six total tackles (one for loss), a blocked punt and a recovery. While the MEAC representative from Washington, DC were able to force three turnovers, they were not able to capitalize on any of those Hornets mistakes with points, which proved to be the difference in the game.
Offensively, quarterback Quinton Williams led the Bison, going 17-32, 147 yards and an interception. Seven of those receptions went to sophomore wide receiver Richie Ilarraza, who tied a MEAC/SWAC Challenge record for most receptions in a game to go along with 36 yards.
Amidst the challenges the weather presented, the Hornets were still able to give the crowd a bit of magic late in the third quarter. Starting their drive at their own one-yard line, the Hornets engineered a MEAC/SWAC Challenge record setting 99-yard drive, highlighted by a 61-yard pitch and catch from backup quarterback Myles Crawley to Isaiah Scott. Two plays later, Jacory Merritt found the endzone after bouncing off the right side and raced in untouched from 21 yards out to give the Hornets a commanding 20-6 lead with 4:06 remaining in the third quarter.
With the win, the Hornets improve to 1-0 on the season and host Miles College in the Labor Day Classic in Montgomery, AL.
With the loss, Howard drops to 0-1 on the season and will travel to Hampton, VA to take on the Hampton Pirates in what has been affectionately called “The Battle of the Real HU.”
The MEAC now leads the overall series 11-5 dating back to 2005. Before tonight, the last time a SWAC member won the challenge was 2018 when Prairie View defeated North Carolina Central 40-24.
This is the second time inclement weather has reared its ugly head on the game. The first time was in 2016 when Bethune-Cookman hosted Alcorn State in Daytona Beach, FL. The game was ruled “no contest” in the second quarter after several delays due to lightning due to feeder bands from Hurricane Hermine.