They Paved the Way in the Snow: First Black College Football Game
Ii was 1892, in a snowstorm in December, a brazen group of young black college students full of competitive fire, trudged their way from Charlotte to Salisbury North Carolina to play a game of football. It was the first time two black colleges got together in a game that had few rules and guidelines. Yet, the action was hot and heavy! It was not a typical Saturday afternoon for football. A torrid snowstorm blanketed central North Carolina and conditions were absolutely horrendous to even be outdoors. But, there was football to be played. Sound familiar?…could it have been last weekend? Maybe, but this took place over a hundred years ago. In North Carolina, the game of ’football’ helped develop a rivalry that became the milestone of black college football. T.M. “Ace” Martin, an acclaimed athlete of the time assembled a group of students at Biddle to challenge the men of Livingstone College, another Christian school who accepted despite having only began assembling during the summer months. Nevertheless, on Saturday, December 27, 1892, despite the oncoming snowstorm, the Biddle team traveled from Charlotte to West Monroe Street in Salisbury to talk on their challengers.Led by their mentor and manager H.I. Peterson, the Biddle (later renamed Johnson C. Smith) team members were:
Right guard L.B. Ellerson, team captain Left Guard C.E. Boyd
Left Tackle Charles H. Shute
Left Halfback WW. Morrow
Fullback William L. Metz
Right end J.J. Robinson
Left end H.H. Muldrow
Right tackle William Hagland
Right halfback Mebane
Substitutes: J.E. Bowman
Even after the driving snow hit the area, it did not stop these Methodists and Presbyterians from ‘getting it on.” Under the rules, the game was played in 45 minute periods. During the first period, a Biddle player grabbed the ball and raced across the goal line for the first ever touchdown, scoring five points. That was the only score in the first 45 minutes as it turned into a slushy tug of war. In the second half, the weather conditions actually got worse. Yet, they were still putting up a fierce struggle on the ice-caked field when the first ever ‘controversy’ occurred. As history has it, a Biddle ball carrier was racing down the sideline and a Livingstone player named Captain Walker laid a vicious hit on him, causing a fumble. Another Livingstone player , W.J. Trent scooped up the ball out of the snow and sprinted what seemed like a tying score. Biddle protested vehemently that the man was tackled ‘out of bounds.’ and they should retain the ball. After a short discussion among the officials, they agreed. Biddle went on to shut out Livingstone, 5-0. Although that dispute caused a temporary halt to the rivalry, they played intermittently down throughout the years leading up to World War One, the great Depression and World War Two.
Rudy Hubbard stepped into the shadow of the great Jake Gaither at Florida A&M in 1974. Hubbard’s impact was felt right away as the went 30-5 from 1977-79. He led the Rattlers to two undefeated (10-0) seasons and reaped the 1978 NCAA 1-AA National title with a 12-1 record. In 1979, FAMU suffered through critical injuries to key players after jumping out to a 5-0 start. They came into the season with a boatload of veterans with championship pedigree
Highlights FAMU held the Hurricanes to a 13-13 tie most of the second half. The Rattlers took the lead on a 34-yard field goal by Vince Coleman with 3:49 left in the game. So, with the game on the line, in the waning moments of the fourth quarter, the Rattlers stopped Hurricane running back Lorenzo Roan for no gain on first down…the ‘Canes saw two passes knocked down..the biggest play was on third-and-goal from FAMU’s 3-yard line. defensive lineman Algie Hendrieth swatted away quarterback Mike Rodrique’s pass, and the Rattlers forced a failed field-goal attempt on fourth down to secure a 16-13 victory.
Rattlers Leaders QB Sammy Knight WR Bobby Hawkins WR Archie Jones TB Frank Middleton RB Melvin McFadden OT Charles Goodson RB Clarence Hawkins RB Mike Solomon OC Lewis Kiser LB Frank Marion NT Oliver Harrell DE Tyrone McGriff
Showdown: Braves Outlast ‘DevilsThere were so many subtitles for this epic game…Rice vs.Holt …Braves “D” vs. the High Octane ‘Devils Offense
The Players:Alcorn State Braves Head coach Marino Casem’s Braves had not won a conference title since 1976…this was only their second winning season since 1980. All-SWAC cornerback Isaac Holt, undisputed leader of the nationally ranked defense was one of the top interception leaders in the SWAC…he was joined by senior free safety Erick Moon and junior cornerback Tony Woolfolk.Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils Head coach Archie Cooley stunned the SWAC hierarchy when he boldly chided Eddie Robinson and the other SWAC coaches to make room’ at the top for his Delta Devils. They were led by All-America wide receiver Jerry Rice (NCAA-1AA and SWAC record setter and quarterback Willie Totten, who was putting up unbelievable passing numbers and records. They were on a collision course to decide the conference title but it felt more like a championship game. The Devils placed 5 offensive players and three defensive players on the All – SWAC First Team.The ‘Devils ’Satellite Express duo QB Willie Totten and WR Jerry Rice was slowed by Isaac Holt and the Braves stout defense
The Game:Alcorn State struck quickly as quarterback Richard Myles threw a 60-yard strike to wide receiver Darryl Joe. The Braves took an early 13-7 lead as Isaac Holt and Erick Moon took the Devils explosive receivers out of the game. Holt hounded Rice all day, holding him to his lowest productivity on the year. Both defenses harassed the passers into had four interceptions by halftime. The Devils tied it up at 28-28 going into the fourth quarter before halfback Perry Qualls scored on a one-yard plunge to give the Braves the lead again with under a minute left in the game. The Devils were marching down the field and on fourth down and 59 seconds left, and everything on the line, Valley’s Totten was sacked by defensive tackles Michael Simpson and Arnold Campbell. With 25 seconds left, Totten dropped back again under heavy pressure and threw a dart down the left sideline towards Rice, but Holt was in perfect position and intercepted the ball and streaked in for a back breaking and touchdown. In the end, Totten was intercepted four times and the ’Devils were held to only twenty-eight points, losing 42-28.(Miss Valley rebounded to finish the season with a 9-1 record and second place in the conference. They lost to Louisiana Tech, 66-19 in their Div. 1AA playoff game.Alcorn State finished 9-1 and captured the SWAC and Black College Championship title before losing their final game to Louisiana Tech, 44-20).