Quaker State 400 Atlanta Motor Speedway 2022

There were a lot of expectations when Eddie Robinson returned to his Alma Mater as head coach of the Hornets. Robinson got off to a great start Saturday leading Alabama State to a 23-13 win over Howard University in their season opener and the Hornets’ first MEAC-SWAC Challenge victory.

Alabama State appeared in the first season-opening inter-conference game against South Carolina State in 2005. Robinson was on the sideline that day as well but only as a fan. (video) The Bulldogs’ ground game was more than a match for the strong arm of the Hornets’ star quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.

Throwback Photos 2005 MEAC-SWAC Challenge
All photos by Jake McDonald

It was another seven years before the Hornets made a second appearance in the game. The outcome of their second appearance mirrored the first, losing 28-38 to Bethune Cookman.

Their opponents from Washington DC were making their first appearance in the game. As the representatives of the MEAC, the Bison had an opportunity to build on the conference’s 11-4 dominance.

Both teams had to wait out a 90-minute thunderstorm delay before they could get the season underway. Fans of the game remember the monsoon that resulted in the cancellation of the 2016 game between Alcorn State and Bethune Cookman.

Howard’s offense started the game with a solid series moving into Hornets territory on five snaps. Bison senior quarterback Quinton Williams converted a third-and-10 with a swing pass to Ian Wheeler that the running back turned into a 17-yard gain and first down. The new life didn’t last long as the Hornets’ defense closed the door to the end zone.

Dylan West gave Howard the early lead with a 33-yard field goal. In 2005, the Hornets fell behind in the first quarter to SC State.

Shades of 2005

Alabama State dispelled those similarities on their second possession after a second weather delay. Defensive back Adrian Maddox intercepted Williams near midfield. Auburn transfer quarterback Dematrius Davis kept the momentum going with two passes to convert third and fourth down. Davis’ first pass of the game to running back Jacory Merritt picked up 16 yards to convert third and four. Facing fourth down and 2 at the Bison 25-yard line, Davis fired his second pass to Santo Dunn for a 22-yard gain. Ja’Won Howell punched it in from 3 yards out to take a 6-3 lead.

The Hornets never trailed again. Davis found Isaiah Scott in the front corner of the end zone for an 11-yard score and a 13-3 lead to start the second quarter.

Williams and the Bison responded driving inside the Hornets’ 10. A false start penalty on third down turned third and goal from the five to third and goal from the 11. Howard had to settle for another West field goal.

Howard had plenty of opportunities to get back in the game. Special teams blocked and recovered a punt and the defense turned the Hornets over twice. The Bison were unable to capitalize on any of the miscues. They added a touchdown early in the fourth on a 5-yard run by sophomore running back Jarett Hunter.

Where the Bison struggled, the Hornets flourished – sort of. Davis and company didn’t score again until midway through the third quarter. Merritt capped a 99-yard drive with a 21-yard touchdown run down the Hornets’ sideline. The touchdown was set up by a 61-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Myles Crawley. The pass was Crawley’s only snap under center.

Nathaniel Eichner drilled a 29-yard field goal to give the Hornets a commanding 10-point lead with less than four minutes remaining.

Howard was up against the Hornets’ defense and the clock. The Bison needed two scores in 3:29. They spent the first minute going forwards and backward with two penalties. After picking up 9 yards on a pass to Christian Carter, officials huddled up to discuss the thunderstorm alert they received.

The fourth and final thunderstorm delay ended the game with the Hornets ahead 23-13 and 2:12 remaining in the game.


Offensive MVP: Dematrius Davis, QB, Alabama State – 16-23-1 for 184 yards, 9-37 yards rushing

Defensive MVP: Jevin Jackson, DL, Howard University – 6 tackles, 2 fumbles recovered

Game Photogallery

All photos credit Jason McDonald, JM Photography for CORE360 Sports

MEAC-SWAC Challenge: Howard vs Alabama State