by Mike Potter
PEARSON CAFETERIA/DURHAM Mose Rison said he had no idea how big homecoming is at an Historically Black College until he joined one's staff as a football coach.
Rison was a highly touted running back during his playing days at Central Michigan, and had stints as an assistant coach at Navy, Rutgers, Stanford and Arizona before a short tenure at Livingstone in 2004 where he got a small taste of it.
Then when he joined Rod Broadway's N.C. Central staff as N.C. Central's offensive coordinator in 2006 before becoming head coach the next season, he got the full idea.
"At Central Michigan we had homecoming too, but we didn't have near the festivities," said Rison, whose 1-6 team will host 1-7 Central State (Ohio) in the Eagles' homecoming contest Saturday at 1:30 at O'Kelly-Riddick Stadium. "I was told early on when I became head football coach that the North Carolina A&T game is big and the Winston-Salem State game is big, but homecoming may mean more than that.
"It's an opportunity to showcase what we've been doing. We want them all to come back here and have a good feeling about what we're doing with this football program. We want to play hard and come away with that second victory."
Last season Rison's team went 4-7, but was able to win that prescribed triumvirate of big games. This time, the Eagles have lost at A&T - 23-17 in overtime on Oct. 3 - and had two other close losses in between more convincing road defeats to superior opposition.
But the Eagles are coming off an open date following a 52-7 rout of Central Methodist, which came to Durham ranked No. 20 in the NAIA. CSU, a member of Division II's Great Lakes Football Conference, lost 55-35 at NAIA member Ohio Dominican on Saturday.
NCCU should be a solid favorite. CSU's only previous meeting with a Division I (Championship Subdivision) team this season was a 68-0 loss at Southern back on Sept. 6.
"Sometimes it's hard when you're the favorite," Rison said at his weekly press conference. "You try as a coaching staff not to let the kids get into a comfortable position where they think the game's already won. That is the message we've been sending out to the kids. They're (1-7) but at the same time we're 1-6. We need to get our second wind.
"We still have a sense of urgency. We set a goal for the last five games to win all five. This game happens to be the second one of those and we want to accomplish that goal."
Junior cornerback Rashad Fox said losing on Saturday really isn't an option.
"Homecoming is such a big deal here - I couldn't see an open seat the last two years at homecoming," Fox said. "It's big and it's nice. We'd really like to win this game. It's a great feeling to win a homecoming game here. This is like a championship game for us because we aren't in a conference right now.
"We want our seniors to go out on a good note, and also go into next season strong. Winning is contagious. You get that good taste and don't want to lose it. If we win these last five we could start off on a good track and have a record season next year."