Preview of NC&T; Game to be broadcasted live on internet
Today's game is more than just a homecoming match-up between two longtime rivals. When the 2011 season started, this game was viewed as little more than a match-up between two struggling programs under new coaches looking to rebuild. The Aggies were picked to finish in ninth the preseason poll while the Bison were picked to finish 10th.
Fast forward and there are some surprises. NC A&T has won three in a row, including an impressive upset over Bethune-Cookman at home two weeks ago. More importantly, the Aggies are all alone in first place of the MEAC as the only undefeated team in conference play. Norfolk State was knocked from the unbeaten ranks by Bethune Cookman on Thursday.
The Bison, under head coach Gary Harrell, have also exceeded expectations. Coming off a 1-10 season and with a new coaching staff in tow, Howard is currently 3-4 overall and 2-2 in MEAC play, boasting a huge upset win over perennial nemesis Florida A&M in Tallahassee, FL two weeks ago.
The Aggies have parlayed the coaching of Rod Broadway, who had successful stints at both North Carolina Central and Grambling State. What the veteran coach is selling, the Aggies are buying. Despite having only 29 scholarships to work with, Broadway has done it with mirrors, combining a balanced offensive attack, featuring the running of the top back in the conference in Mike Mayhew, the efficient passing attack of Lewis Kindle to some talented receivers, an opportunistic defense that has effectively stopped the run and forced turnovers, and solid special teams play that has eliminated the big play from opponents.
The Bison began their season with the theme: Road To Redemption. It began with a loss at Eastern Michigan that featured much adversity but a show of never quit attitude that pleased Coach Harrell despite the loss. It carried over to the next game as Howard showed its mettle by staging a dramatic come-from-behind win over Morehouse at the Nation's Football Classic.
The Bison experienced still another bump in the road on the Road to Redemption when they failed to recover five forced fumbles in a tough 23-9 loss to MEAC title contender Norfolk State at home.
Another lesson came in a 14-9 loss to Morgan State in which Howard fell behind 14-0 at the half and came back to dominate the second half only to fail on missed opportunities in the Red Zone.
The Bison rebounded from the disappointing loss to Morgan State with an impressive road win over Savannah State to snap a 29-game MEAC losing streak.
Buoyed by the victory, the Bison showed the character that Coach Harrell has been preaching from Day One when the team rallied from a 21-0 halftime lead to score 29 fourth quarter points and shock the Rattlers 29-28.
No one said that the Road To Redemption would be easy as the Bison found that out the next week when they dropped a 21-3 home loss to Georgetown that featured the team's most uninspired effort of the season.
Along this Road To Redemption, the defense has been impressive. Under the coaching brilliance under defensive coordinator Ray Petty and led by the play of the defensive line, featuring All-American candidate Sackie Kerkulah and his mates Corey Berry, Markee White, Toavon Sheats, Alphonso Beale and Ibrahima Kebe, Howard's defense ranks among the nation's leaders in several statistical categoroes including sacks, tackles for losses and pass defense.
All American linebacker and Buck Buchanan Award candidate Keith Pough has contributed mightily with his ability as a playmaker along with mate, LB Kurt Mangum, II, cornerbacks Theodore Graham, IV and Lanny Kelly, and safeties Julien David and DeCarlos Knight.
Offensively, the Bison have relied heavily on the talents of their freshman quarterback Greg McGhee, who is a strong candidate for MEAC Rookie of the Year, All-conference wide receiver Willie Carter and red-shirt junior running back Terrance Leffall, who ranks among the conference leaders.
FOLLOW THE ACTION LIVE ONLINE
Howard Bison Football vs. NC A&T Greene Stadium, Washington, DC
Start Time:Saturday, October 22, 2011 at 1 pm