Big plays, made by top players, on top teams, was the theme for HBCU over the weekend. With teams jockeying for position in conference standings it was to be expected on what was perhaps the most exciting matchups so far this season.

As statement games go, Bethune-Cookman (4-3, 2-2) stamped this one on Norfolk State (6-2, 4-1) in ALL CAPS. It used a smothering defense and a punishing ground game led by Isidore Jackson to score a 14-6 victory. It was Norfolk State’s first loss in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference this season.

"It was great to see our team have a complete effort and complete game," Brian Jenkins, Bethune-Cookman head coach, said. "We've been off-track and unable to put it all together for some reason. Well, our team did that [Thursday night]. I keep telling everybody this is a special team, a winning team, and they went out tonight and played the level of football they are capable of playing."

Jackson, a sophomore, recorded Bethune-Cookman's ninth 200-yard rushing game in program history. He went for 206 yards on a program-record 34 carries. Jackson is on a roll. The 206 yards represents back-to-back career bests after his 150-yard effort against Fort Valley.

Conversely, Norfolk State, could do nothing with Bethune-Cookman’s defense. More specifically it had its hands full with Ryan Davis. The senior defensive end was a beast recording 11 tackles -- including 3.5 (of the team’s five) sacks, and six tackles for loss.

The sack total is especially noteworthy since coming into the game, Norfolk State had allowed just seven sacks in its previous seven games. For the game, Norfolk State, the MEAC's top passing offense, had just 97 yards, and a mere 249 yards of total offense.

MEAC Standings Conf. Overall
Norfolk State 4-1 6-2
Morgan State 3-1 4-3
North Carolina A&T 3-1 4-3
Florida A&M 3-1 5-3
Howard 3-2 4-4
South Carolina State 3-2 4-4
Bethune-Cookman 2-2 4-3
Hampton 2-2 4-3
Savannah State 1-3 1-6
Delaware State 0-4 2-5
North Carolina Central 0-4 1-6

Norfolk State will try to stay on top in the MEAC when it hosts North Carolina A&T (4-3, 3-1). The Aggies hurt themselves with their 35-28 loss to Howard. Also a game behind is Morgan State (4-3, 3-1), which tries to stay in the hunt when it plays at Delaware State (2-5, 0-4).

Elsewhere in the MEAC, Hampton (4-3, 2-2) recovered from being tied with 1:54 remaining in regulation to score a touchdown in overtime to knock off North Carolina Central (1-6, 0-4). North Carolina Central tied the game at 24 when Jonathan Nicely hit Michael Johnson with a 36-yard pass to cap a breezy 4-play, 51-yard drive in 36 seconds.

“This is a great feeling to finally win a homecoming game,” said Pirates head coach Donovan Rose. “Central is a great team who is well-coached and they played a great game. Overall, this is a great win for the team and now we have to get back at it [Sunday].”

The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference East division remains deadlocked as Morehouse (6-2, 4-1) survived Benedict (2-6, 1-4), 39-31 and Albany State (6-2, 4-1) held off Clark Atlanta (2-7, 1-5), 19-13.

The Maroon Tigers, playing their last home game of the season, sent 14 seniors out a game they and their homecoming fans will not soon forget. It had two interceptions and lost three fumbles -- the last returned 73 yards for a touchdown that put Benedict ahead 31-29 with 3:53 remaining.

Morehouse survived that going 48 yards on 12 plays and earned the win on David Carter’s third touchdown of the day -- an 11-yard run -- with 19 seconds remaining.

Albany State played its first game without preseason All-American receiver Octavius Staton and it showed. Although the Rams struggled, they held on in a tougher than expected battle with Clark Atlanta. It was led by its defense put together its best effort of the year, and its kicking game came through big as Brandon Hamilton drilled four field goals in the win.

Stillman (6-2, 4-1), leaders in the SIAC East played the part of a homecoming opponent by getting pounded at Fort Valley (2-6, 2-3), 52-3. The Wildcats forced four fumbles and had two interceptions to shut Stillman down. Fort Valley turned four of the turnovers into scores.

The loss dropped Stillman into a tie in the West Division with Miles (5-3, 4-1), 37-3 winners against Lane. That sets up a battle for the top spot next Saturday when Stillman plays at Miles.

In the Southwestern Athletic Conference, Mississippi Valley’s losing streak reached 19 games, but not without a fight. The Delta Devils took Grambling into overtime before losing, 30-24.

Elizabeth City State (6-2, 4-1) wrapped up the Northern Division of the CIAA with a 23-12 victory against Bowie State (4-4, 3-3). The Vikings, winners of six consecutive games, were led by running back Daronte McNeill’s 159 yards rushing and three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving).

The CIAA championship game is set with ECSU playing Southern Division winner, Winston-Salem State, on Nov. 12.