The Albany State Golden Rams raced out to a 17-0 lead against the Morehouse College Maroon Tigers and went to earn their first victory of the 2023 season in a 24-14 win in the second annual HBCU Classic (HBCUNY) at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on Saturday afternoon.
The victory was also the first for head coach Quinn Gray, who was hired to take over the coaching position last December. The former Florida A&M standout quarterback was on the roster of four NFL teams between 2002 and 2008 and was previously the quarterbacks coach for Alcorn State from 2020 to 2022.
Albany State scored on a two-yard pass to wide receiver Ralph Lovett from quarterback Isaiah Knowles to open the scoring, and converted a two-point play to take an 8-0 lead. Knowles followed that up with a 58-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Rashad Jordan. Kicker Eli Mashburn then nailed a 28-yard field goal to give the Golden Rams a commanding 17-0 lead toward the end of the first half.
But the Maroon Tigers didn’t give in.
Quarterback Derrach West threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Brogan Korta and Morehouse cut Albany State’s lead to 17-7 by halftime.
With no scoring in the third quarter, West connected with Marqueiz Pride for a TD to cut the Albany State lead to 17-14 in the fourth. But Albany State came back with an 8-play, 72-yard drive. Knowles and Jordan hooked up again for a 13-yard touchdown and to put the game away.
“We preach, play the next play,” said Gray. “So for us, If a mistake is made, we’re able to move on and put that mistake behind us and play the next play. Yeah, we had some instances in the game that were, you know, [but the] defense sort of, kind of stepped up for us offensively, [because] we got a little stagnant.”
Gray also discussed the significance of the game.
“Eleven of these kids had never been on an airplane before so the experiences this has created for these kids is second to none,” he said. “They got a chance to see some things they have never seen before… and play on the field that they may never play on again,” referring to the field where two NFL teams—the Jets and the Giants—play their home games.
Morehouse head coach Gerard Wilcher shared his program’s priorities after the defeat.
“These are Morehouse men,” he exclaimed. “We are here to win and graduate. We are working on the winning part as well as the graduation part.”
Thousands of alumni and fans of both schools celebrated before the game tailgating in MetLfe’s parking lot. At halftime, hip-hop legend Big Daddy Kane performed. With nearly 20,000 fans inside the stadium and seemingly as many outside, it appears that the HBCU Classic is here to stay and not just because of the Black excellence shown on the football field. With a full week of activities, including college fairs in both New York City and Newark, the HBCU Classic is shining a light on many of the great aspects of HBCUs.