HOUSTON — While one eye peers ahead toward the more favorable conference season, the lure of the SWAC still attracts Texas College five decades after the Steers left the historical league.
The SWAC goes back in time today, as one of the conference’s founding members meets the reigning league champion today in Space City.
Texas College, one of the six charter institutions when the league formed in 1920, squares off with Texas Southern, who made school history with its first conference crown a year ago.
The meeting marks the third in four years between the former conference mates from 1954-1961.
“When I first came on in February they were one of the teams we were excited about playing because of the team we had put together,” first-year Texas College coach George Cumby said. “This would be something we’d love to be a part of every year, to play one SWAC team just to get a feel.”
The Steers suffered key off-the-field blows before three blowout defeats to start the season, as seven projected starters were declared ineligible by the NAIA, including highly-touted quarterback Vincent McNeil. TC lost its next quarterback in line, freshman Andrew Vargas, to injury last week, leading to an open competition for signal-caller as the Steers prepared for TSU.
The Steers suited out less than 40 players, with only 27 getting on the field, in the opener. The Steers surpassed 40 last week and except to get three more players eligible against TSU and possibly four more for next week’s Central States Football League and home opener versus Northwestern Oklahoma State, bringing the total to 50.
Teams outscored TC 146-3 in the first three games. TSU represents the last of three heavyweights scheduled after losses to fellow NAIA Belhaven (Miss.) (47-3), Division I Lamar (58-0) and Division II Arkansas-Monticello (41-0).
“We don’t have the team I thought we’d have,” added Cumby, citing TC’s lack of numbers. “A lot of these games are kind of over our head. The kids are playing hard with the numbers we have. We’ll have those kids (now ineligible) next year (if we’re) able to hold on to them through the spring and summer.”
TSU, which went winless in 2007, completed a full turnaround during last year’s 9-3 campaign, capped by a win over Alabama State in the SWAC championship game.
Prairie View edged TSU (37-34) in the Tigers’ opener last week, the first under interim head coach Kevin Ramsey. TSU led by 14 points in the fourth quarter of a game it dominated in total yardage (404-212). Last year Ramsey served as coordinator of a unit dubbed “212 degrees,” which topped the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) in total defense and pass efficiency defense.
TSU’s HOBO offense (high-octane, big-play offense) also concerns Cumby and Co. with its bruising ground assault.
“They’re a good run team,” Cumby said. “We’re going to have to stop the run if we’ve got any chance. And on offense we have to move the ball to keep the defense off the field. …We’re just trying to get ready for conference.”