The pregame hype involved Hampton University quarterback Deondre Francois, the former Florida State starter who joined the Pirates in August. But after Division II Virginia Union won 36-17 at FCS member HU Saturday, the spotlight shifted to Panthers quarterback Khalid Morris, a Thomas Dale High alumnus who threw four touchdown passes.
Morris completed three touchdown passes to Charles Hall (80, 28, and 44 yards), and Tabyus Taylor (Hopewell High) carried 25 times for 159 yards as Virginia Union knocked off a Division I opponent for the first time since defeating Grambling State 46-37 in 1991. At HU, Taylor also caught a 40-yard TD pass from Morris, who came to VUU this season from ASA College, a school in Brooklyn, N.Y., that plays on the junior college level.
“We didn’t go into it with an underdog type of feel. We went into it like it was another game,” Alvin Parker, VUU’s second-year coach, said Monday. “We felt like if our kids played well and if we put them in a good position as a coaching staff, we were going to have a chance to put ourselves in the ballgame, and we did.
“It made us look forward to having some good things to work with.”
The VUU brand and Panthers’ recruiting are boosted as a result of the victory, which delivered confidence to this season’s team, Parker noted.
Division II football programs are allowed to award athletics-based financial aid that is equivalent to 36 scholarships. The FCS scholarship limit is 63, and FBS programs can give up to 85 scholarships.
Hampton has been an FCS program since 1995, and is in its first season as a Big South Conference member after a 22-year association with Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Francois, dismissed by Florida State in February after reports of an off-field transgression surfaced, completed 14 of 28 for 188 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Parker recognized the new challenge as keeping the Panthers (1-0) “level-headed” as they prepare for Saturday’s home opener against Lenoir-Rhyne (1-0), which went 12-2 and advanced to the Division II quarterfinals last season.
Scheduling HU (1-1) and Lenoir-Rhyne (1-0) was part of VUU’s strategy to upgrade its list of opponents outside CIAA competition after finishing 8-2 last year and not receiving an invitation to the 28-team DII tournament.
“As soon as we broke out of that in November, after that selection show, we got right to it and made sure we had the schedule like we wanted it,” Parker said.
The Panthers secured a game with Lenoir-Rhyne first and then agreed to the playing arrangement at Hampton, where Parker’s VUU boss has some connections. Joe Taylor, Virginia Union’s vice president for intercollegiate athletics, coached the Panthers to a 60-19-3 record from 1984 to 1991, with three trips to the Division II playoffs. He moved to Hampton, which Taylor led to a record of 136-49-1 from 1992 to 2007.
“He’s a legend at both places,” said Parker, a former VUU player and assistant coach.