Alabama A&M enters its game with Southern on Saturday wide open and on a roll.
Not only did the Bulldogs win their in-state rivalry against Alabama State in thrilling fashion last week, but they’ve got all of their goals in front of them and the conference’s top quarterback with his hand on the wheel.
Aqeel Glass has picked up where he left off when he led the SWAC in passing last year and will be trying to get the team’s fourth victory in five games at 4 p.m. at A.W. Mumford Stadium.
“He’s having a great year,” Bulldogs coach Connell Maynor said. “We expected him to be better, the natural process of a quarterback in the system. He threw 20 touchdown passes last year and he’s past that number this year. He’s maturing at the position. Everyone says if you got a quarterback, you’ve got a chance.”
Glass has already surpassed last year’s numbers in yardage and touchdowns with 2,298 and 21 scores with four games left. He threw for 236 yards and a pair of touchdowns in last week’s 43-41 triple overtime victory against Alabama State and he’s the main reason the Bulldogs are in the hunt for the East Division title.
After Southern, Alabama A&M plays host to Jackson State before a showdown with Alcorn State in Lorman, Mississippi. Glass will be taking aim this week at a Southern defense which is second-to-last against the pass, allowing 280.8 yards per game.
A 6-foot-5, 215-pound junior from St. Louis, Glass has rallied his team from a slow start. The Bulldogs lost their SWAC opener to Arkansas-Pine Bluff 52-34 and have also lost to Grambling in a game that does not count in the league standings.
“It started a little rougher than we expected but we got back on track as to what we wanted to do,” Glass said. “All of our goals are still ahead of us. We still have a chance to win division, the SWAC championship and Celebration Bowl. That’s what we’re excited about.”
Glass has improved his accuracy from 56.1 to 60.7 and is averaging 67 more yards per game. Blessed with strong run support from Jordan Bentley, who is second in the league with 859 yards and the scoring leader with 14 touchdowns, Glass has taken the next step in his development.
“I’m a better player, definitely,” he said. “I’ve improved on everything, and become a more well-rounded, thoughtful and analytical player. I’m always looking at the little things.
“I got stronger and faster and I’m in better shape. I eat right and working out has helped.”
Southern coach Dawson Odums remembers Glass well. He threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns last season as Southern pulled out a 29-27 victory, overcoming a 21-6 deficit.
“He can throw it,” Odums said. “They’ve got some guys who can catch it. Everything starts with him and Bentley. They’ve gotten better. They will come in here feeling sky high, coming off a win against their rivals.”
To slow down Glass, Southern will have to slow down Bentley, who ran the ball 39 times for 197 yards and scored four touchdowns last week, one on a swing pass from Glass. The Alabama A&M defense rose up and stopped a two-point conversion on the game’s final play to preserve the victory.
“Last week everybody stepped up when we needed to step up,” Glass said. “We made big plays and I’m proud of the guys. We have a tough task ahead of us, not just this week but the rest of the season.
“Southern is good, they bend but they don’t break. We’ve got to execute to the best of our abilities and let the rest take care of itself.”