Howard, Morgan Renew Rivalry in New York Urban League Classic
East Rutherford, NJ—September 23---When Howard University and Morgan State University meet in the New York Urban League Classic on Saturday at MetLife Stadium, there will be a lot on the line. It will be the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opener for the Bears (1-2) while the Bison (1-2, 0-1 in the MEAC) will be looking to get their first conference win since 2007. As an added incentive, the game will be carried on ESPNU (tape delay shown at 10:30 pm Saturday night).
The Beltway rivals, separated by 35 miles, have met 72 times on the gridiron and Morgan State holds a 38-33-1 advantage in the series which dates back to 1889. The Bears have had the upper hand most recently, winning five straight, but each team has had successful runs during the 121-year period.
"When Howard and Morgan meet, you can throw all the records out the window," said Howard first year Coach Gary Harrell, who has played and coached in several games. "This is, and has always been a great rivalry. Because we are trying to get out first conference win and this is their first MEAC game adds even more to the rivalry."
The Bison are coming off a 23-9 loss to Norfolk State in their conference opener last week at home. Howard led early, but failed to capitalize on several opportunities, including six forced fumbles and zero recoveries.
"In all of my years in this game of football, I can't ever remember experiencing something like that," said Coach Harrell.
The Bison have had success on offense this season due to the talents of their freshman quarterback Greg McGhee, who leads the team in rushing, passing and total offense. Howard will need to get its running game going with Terrance Leffall, Charles Brice and Andra Williams if McGhee is to be effective against an always tough Morgan State defense.
"We know that Morgan is going to present problems for us on defense," said Harrell. "They have good size and athleticism and I know that their defensive coordinator Alonzo Lee is going to have them well prepared. We have to be solid, minimize our mistakes and protect the quarterback."
Defensively, the Bison have to continue the consistency they have shown the past two games.
All-American linebacker Keith Pough has continued his outstanding play, but the rest of the unit has shown marked progress each game. Defensive ends Corey Berry and All-MEAC candidate Sackie Kerkulah have provided leadership with their play to a young defensive front. Sophomores Markee White and Toavan Sheats have come on strong as pass rushers.
The area where there was been a noticeable improvement is in the Bison secondary. Under the tutelage of secondary coaches Ron Bolton, Billy Jenkins and Vontrae Long, the unit has already picked off five interceptions after getting only nine all of last season.
The Morgan State offense features an athletic quarterback in red-shirt freshman Robert Council, a skilled wide receiver in Winifred Diggs, and some outstanding running backs Travis Davidson and Jourdan Brooks who will certainly challenge the Bison's defensive unit.
There are several sidebars to the game: Alonzo Lee, the MSU defensive coordinator, is from Washington, DC (Dunbar High School) and served as linebackers coach for the Bison under former Howard coaches Floyd Keith, Joe Taylor and Willie Jeffries.
Coach Harrell served as quarterbacks coach at Morgan State in 2008. HU offensive line coach Chennis Berry was offensive line coach for the Bears in 2008. Howard kicking coach Mike Andrews was a standout kicker for the Bears. And Jay "Sky" Walker, former All American quarterback for Howard and participant in MSU-HU games in 1992 and 1993, will be providing color commentary for ESPNU.
Kickoff is slated for 3:34 pm.