Seven was a lucky number for Bowie State football in 2015. It was head coach Damon Wilson’s seventh season and his team won the CIAA North Division with a 5-0 record and 7-0 conference mark. Despite playing the final three games with a fourth string quarterback the Bulldogs still managed to play in the conference’s title game.
Bowie State senior receiver Nyne Manns is a 2015 first team all-CIAA selection and hopes to lead them back to the conference title game this year. (Photo courtesy of Bowie St. Athletics/Lawrence Johnson)
However, that’s when the luck ran out. The Bulldogs 9-3 record and trip to the NCAA Division II playoffs wasn’t enough to wash the nasty taste of the heartbreaking loss to Winston Salem State in the CIAA Championship Game from their mouth. Bowie blew a 14 point second half lead and lost on a field goal as time expired to give the Rams their third title in five years.
For the second straight season they are predicted to win the north division and eight players earned preseason all-conference team honors. Fifteen starters return and several could compete for player of the year awards on each side of the ball.
If the Bulldogs can solidify their questions at quarterback the receiving corps could emerge as the conference’s best. Nyme Manns – a redshirt senior from Baltimore – was magnificent in 2015. Manns was first team all-CIAA last year with 1,104 receiving yards and tied for the conference lead with 13 touchdowns. His 92 receiving yards per game also ranked second in conference despite catching passes from four different starters.
Manns returns as just one cog in an offense that was electrifying in 2015. Bowie State led the conference averaging over 37 points and 441 yards of total offense per game. The Bulldogs also rushed for nearly 195 yards per contest last year and could be nearly as prolific this season.
Sophomore Robert Chesson should play a bigger role too. He only touched the ball 40 times in 11 games but averaged nearly five yards per carry. Chesson also gives them and explosive playmaker who can score from anywhere on the field and on special teams.
Meanwhile their defense was stifling as well in 2015 and could be even better this year. Eight starters return although filling the hole at cornerback where perennial all-CIAA performer Curtis Pumphrey locked down for the last three years is vital. Mervo’s William Flowers, III and Arundel’s could push to be in the starting mix during preseason camp.
The Bulldogs front seven will be as stout as any in their league which should take some pressure of Pumphrey’s successor. Two preseason first team all-conference players will anchor the middle of their defense. Senior tackle Sean Copeland returns after playing beast mode in the CIAA Championship Game after spending most of the contest in the Winston Salem State backfield. Linebackers Kevaugn Townsend and Ian Scott should benefit from the havoc that Copeland can cause up front also.
However, Bowie State’s biggest question will be at quarterback where -despite Nyema Washington leading them to the championship after gaining invaluable experience – he is not the incumbent starter heading into preseason practice. Whoever wins the job will have do a better job protecting the football while taking advantage of as good a collection of skill position players as any team in Division II.
“I feel great about what we having returning from our championship team and blending that group of guys with our recruiting class,” said Wilson. “We fully understand what it takes to get back to the conference championship and NCAA post season play”.
Six of the eight preseason all-CIAA conference from players are from seniors from Baltimore. While the future is promising it is now or never for this home grown Charm City Crew.