By Mark F. Gray, Special to the AFRO

Local HBCU teams went 0-3 as the Labor Day Weekend marked the final unofficial weekend of summer and kicked off college football season.  However, two premiere quarterbacks set the tone with sterling performances that almost led them to upset wins against favored opponents.

Newton Shines for Howard in Loss at Ohio U.

Howard University quarterback Caylin Newton has proven himself as the star standout in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). (Courtesy Photo)

Howard University quarterback Caylin Newton continued to prove that he’s one of the top players in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) despite the Bison’ 38-32 loss at Ohio University.  The sophomore from Atlanta produced 532 yards of total offense and three touchdowns but it wasn’t enough, as they couldn’t defeat a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team to open their season for the second straight year.

Newton spread the ball around to his talented skill players all game to put them in position to win.  He completed 26 of 52 passes for 439 yards and three touchdowns but had two costly interceptions.  Newton, the younger brother of Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton, hit seven different receivers but completed 17 of those passes to his talented duo of all-MEAC performers who are contenders for all-American status as well.

Jequez Ezzard finished the game with eight catches for 223 yards and two touchdowns including a 59 yard score but also lost a fumble.  Preseason first All-MEAC performer Kyle Anthony also finished with eight receptions for 93 yards and another score.

Newton also led them in rushing with 93 yards rushing on 21 carries as Howard continues to search for the heir apparent to Anthony Philyaw at running back, who has now graduated and was second team all-MEAC in 2017.

Howard won the statistical battle although four turnovers ultimately sealed their fate.  The Bison outgained the Bobcats 685-483 in total yards. They obliterated Ohio in passing 484-277 and outrushed them 161-148 but couldn’t overcome two fumbles and two interceptions, including one near midfield with 14 seconds remaining- ending the hopes for victory.

Hall Opens in Midsean Form for Bowie St. at Wagner

The reigning HBCU National Player of the Year was in midseason form but it wasn’t enough to lead Bowie State to a win against a higher division opponent.  Quarterback Amir Hall completed 28-of-42 passes for 348 yards and rushed for a team-high 65 yards, but the Bulldogs fell 40-23 to Division I (FCS) Wagner College.

Eight different receivers caught passes from the 2017 Deacon Jones and Doug Williams awards winner, but his primary target was their preseason all-CIAA receiver Lesana Sesay and redshirt senior Gilbert Lunsford.  The trio helped keep the nation’s top Division II passing attack from being grounded as Bowie St. opened their season on Staten Island, New York.

Sesay and Lunsford combined for 12 catches and 185 yards while Hall completed passes to eight different receivers.  Sesay amassed 89 yards and a touchdown while Lunsford finished with eight receptions and 86 yards.

Hall also led the Bulldogs in rushing with 58 yards thanks to a 57-yard-run as they look to replace Robert Chesson who graduated last year.

Morgan Puts Up Little Battle Vs. Towson St.

Towson State continued its mastery of Morgan State in their neighborhood rivalry game with a 36-10 beatdown in what is now billed as “The Battle of Baltimore” at Hughes Stadium.

Rutgers transfer Tony Flacco, brother of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, completed 18 of 28 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns. Flacco looked like a pro against the Bears defense running a no-huddle offense they had no answer for.

Ernest Jones’ debut as Morgan’s interim head coach couldn’t have gone much worse as the Bears were held to 167 yards total offense and 13 first downs.