Classic victory for West Virginia State

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West Virginia State head football coach Al Monroe was just a little concerned about his team prior to the 11th Annual Chicago Football Classic held Saturday. Coming from tiny Institute, West Va., he was worried his team might lose some of their focus, pla

West Virginia State head football coach Al Monroe was just a little concerned about his team prior to the 11th Annual Chicago Football Classic held Saturday. Coming from tiny Institute, West Va., he was worried his team might lose some of their focus, playing in the third largest city in the country and at historic Soldier Field.

No need to worry. The Yellow Jackets got the job done, rolling to a very convincing 47-13 win over Central State University before an announced crowd of 35,000.

“I thought they just might be a little too excited about playing here in a city like Chicago and in a place like Soldier Field,” Monroe said. “We have a lot of young guys, and it’s easy for them to get distracted.

“They didn’t let it bother them though. They came out and played an outstanding game.”

Leading the Yellow Jackets to victory was junior quarterback Kevin O’Brien and senior running back Brian Mitchell. O’Brien threw for 358 yards and three touchdowns while Mitchell rushed for a pair of scores.

O’Brien and Mitchell were named the game’s co-Offensive MVPs of the contest. O’Brien was 15-of-23 passing for 367 yards with touchdown passes of 45, 43 and 36 yards. Mitchell scored on first quarter runs of 48 and four yards finishing with 121 yards on 13 carries.

It was the second straight 100-yard-plus rushing game for Mitchell.

“The main thing about playing this game was being able to relax,” Mitchell said. “Yes, we were excited about playing in Chicago and Soldier Field, but we also knew we had a football game to play.

“It would have been very easy to get caught up in the excitement, but we were able to keep our focus.”

West Virginia State also got a pair of field goals by Greg Whissler. WVS jumped to a quick 14-0 lead, but CSU was able to cut the lead to 14-7 on a 53-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jeff Brooks to wide receiver Daniel Stover.

The Marauders, however, could get no closer as West Virginia State built a 30-7 half-time lead, en route to the victory.

“We were able to get on them early and executed very well offensively,” Monroe said.

The win was the second straight of the season for West Virginia State, after opening the season with a 67-13 rout of Lincoln University of Mo. Central State dropped to 0-2 with the loss.

Former Hubbard high school star Jeff Franklin of Central State was named the defensive MVP of the game with seven solo tackles and an interception.

“It was great to come home to play. I just wish we could have won the game,” Franklin said.

The WVS defense also played well, allowing CSU just a first quarter score and a touchdown late in the game.

Leading the Yellow Jacket defense was strong safety Valentine Bon with nine tackles and linebackers Elisha Merchant and DeMichael Nesbitt, who both had eight tackles. Nesbitt also added a pair of sacks.

“They were a lot better than I thought they were,” Central State head coach Al West said of West Virginia State. “We played well, but our inexperience showed at times in a lot of positions.”

O’Brien and Merchant also received honors from the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference for their performances in the win over Central State.

O’Brien was named the conference offensive player of the week while Merchant took honors as the league’s defensive player of week.

The game was the first meeting between the two schools since 1992 when West Virginia State pulled out a 42-14 victory. It was Central State’s first trip to Soldier Field since 1973 when they suffered a 44-14 loss to Tennessee State in what was called the Sickle Cell Anemia Classic.

West Virginia State opens play in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference when they travel to Fairmont State Saturday. Central State, meanwhile, is at Youngstown State the same day.

In other Black college football action over the weekend, defending Black national champion Tuskegee opened their season with a 34-0 win over Miles College.

Quarterback Jacary Atkinson rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns, and threw for 258 yards and a touchdown to lead Tuskegee to the win.

In photo: Former Hubbard high school star Jeff Franklin of Central State University

Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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