It is just October, but a lot will be on the line for the Howard University football team when it hosts Norfolk State University on Saturday, Oct. 21. The game will not only be the Bison’s opening Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opener, it is also homecoming 2023.
The Bison (2-4, 0-0 in the MEAC), the 2022 conference co-champions, will be looking to start their quest for an outright conference championship, which would earn them a trip to the coveted Celebration Bowl in Atlanta, Georgia in December.
It will not be an easy task as the Norfolk Spartans pose a serious challenge. The Spartans (2-4 overall, 0-0 in the MEAC) are coming off a 24-17 road loss to Tennessee State this past Saturday.
Howard, who have played one of the challenging schedules in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), is coming off a 48-7 road loss at Number 18 Harvard on Saturday. They have also played two Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) opponents in Eastern Michigan and Northwestern from the Big10.
“Coming off the last three games, we were nicked up a bit,” noted Howard Head Coach Larry Scott. “We have just played three physical football teams with various styles of play.”
Scott added that the football team looks “forward to coming home,” and playing in front of home fans.
“Our goal at Howard is to compete for the MEAC championships,” he emphasized.
The Bison will be looking for a rebound game from their graduate quarterback Quinton Williams, who had played well until the Harvard game. The 6 ‘5 native of Upper Marlboro came into that game with only one turnover, but against Harvard, he committed three, all of which led to scores.
One of the bright spots for the Bison has been the play of sophomore running back Eden James, who leads the conference with over 90 yards rushing per game. James is the son of former NFL standout, running back Edgerrin James.
Other players who will be looking to help aid in a victory are graduate Ian Wheeler and senior Kasey Hawthorne.
Defensively, Howard will have to stop the Spartans’ run game, who are currently averaging 190 yards per game— second to Howard in the conference.
Senior All American candidate Kenny Gallop, Jr., senior defensive back Carson Hinton, graduate linebacker Christian White and junior linebacker Terrence Hollon anchor the Howard defense, which ranks among the best in pass defense in the FCS.
In addition, the game will be broadcast on ESPNU. Howard University alum and Hall of Famer, Jay “Sky” Walker will handle color commentary and FAMU alum Tiffany Greene will do the play by play.
But that is not all. There will be a special ceremony during the game to honor the 1993 football team for their 30th anniversary. That team did something no team in school history had done, finishing undefeated at 11-0, winning the Black National championship and giving the program its highest national ranking in history.
Among the honorees are Walker, who was named All American and was player of the year; Gary “Flea” Harrell, former head coach at Howard and currently running backs coach at the University of Colorado with Coach Prime; and Pep Hamilton, former quarterbacks coach in both college and in the NFL.
“This is a great honor,” said Harrell, a Howard and MEAC Hall of Famer. “For the University to honor us for this accomplishment is something that we value greatly.”
Hamilton has changed careers from coaching and calling plays to analyst, now working for the NFL Network alongside Steve Wyche, also a former HU alum.
“There was a uniqueness about that team in 1993. It was a group of highly skilled players who were close on and off the field,” said Hamilton. “This ceremony is special because we can all come back together and celebrate our accomplishment.”