Both the Alabama A&M; Bulldogs and the Tuskegee Golden Tigers are coming off losses entering their game against each other at 1 p.m. Saturday in Tuskegee. The difference is, A&M;’s setback happened just last week, while Tuskegee hasn’t played since falling in the first round of last year’s Division II playoffs.
But time has not completely healed the Golden Tigers’ frustration at losing to North Alabama by three points in the 2013 playoffs. So, much like Alabama A&M;, Tuskegee enters Saturday’s game determined to get back on the winning track.
“It made us hungry,” Tuskegee senior quarterback Justin Nared said during the preseason of last year’s playoff loss. “It left a bitter taste in our mouths, and it’s been a huge motivation for us (during the offseason).”
The Bulldogs don’t have to look back nearly as far in order to find their motivation. A&M; gave up 307 yards rushing and 31 consecutive points in losing to North Carolina A&T; 47-13 on Sunday in the 10th annual MEAC/SWAC Challenge in Orlando, Florida.
With A&M; trailing 7-6, North Carolina A&T; scored on a 95-yard kickoff return on the final play of the first quarter, then added four more touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 38-6 halftime lead.
The game was the first at Alabama A&M; for both head coach James Spady, a former Nevada assistant who took over from Anthony Jones after last year’s 4-8 season. Quarterback Jaymayson Lee completed 9 of 21 passes for 129 yards Sunday.
This is one of the older football rivalries in the state of Alabama, dating to 1932. The Bulldogs lead the series 25-21-3, though Tuskegee beat A&M; 23-7 last season. Nared led the Golden Tigers in that game, throwing for 206 yards and three touchdowns.
Tuskegee enters this season ranked No. 25 in the American Football Coaches Association Division II poll, and No. 21 by Sporting News.
Stillman vs. West Alabama, 3 p.m.
Defending Gulf South Conference co-champion West Alabama travels to Stillman for the first game between the in-state teams in 11 years.
UWA took all three of the previous meetings, winning at Stillman 35-0 in 2000 and 45-33 in 2002. The Lions won at home 24-17 in 2003 in the most recent game in the series.
This is the season opener for both teams. UWA went 8-3 last season, while Stillman finished 6-5 for the second consecutive year.
Alabama State vs. Tennessee State, 4 p.m.
Alabama State (0-1) is looking for some answers on defense after giving up 51 points in last week’s season-opener again Sam Houston State.
“Defensively, after watching the game film, I was still discouraged by the effort,” ASU coach Reggie Barlow said. “It’s just that fundamental technique type of stuff - players not doing the right thing, not playing in a frenzy - that was disappointing.”