Savannah, GA—September 29--When Howard University takes on Savannah State University this coming Saturday night at Ted A. Wright Stadium, the game may lack championship implications, but it certainly has a number of intriguing sub plots.
The Tigers (1-3 overall, 1-0 in the MEAC) are in their first season as a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. SSU could be a bit giddy after pulling off a surprising 33-30 road win over North Carolina Central last week for its first MEAC win.
And there will be added incentive for the Tigers as they will be
playing at their renovated
Stadium for the first time.
“We are very excited,” said SSU first year head
coach Steve Davenport. “The win over Central
was very important to this program. “We will be playing in the TA Wright Stadium for the first time since its renovation. Our fans and players are really looking forward to this.”
The Bison (1-3 overall, 0-1 in the MEAC) will be looking to snap
a 29-game conference losing
streak, dating back to 2007. Howard was very close to ending that slide last week against Morgan State in the New York Urban League Classic at the MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands. But the error-prone Bison could not overcome six turnovers and thus, they lost, 14-9 to the Bears.
“Our defense played well enough to win and we moved the
ball on offense,” said Coach Harrell,
whose team outgained Morgan State, 387-178. “But we have to stop making the mistakes we are
making if we are going to be successful. We were having problems with penalties and were able to correct that. Now we have to stop making the stupid mistakes.”
Howard has dominated the Tigers in their four previous meetings,
outscoring them, 189-55. But
Harrell quickly cautioned that things are different.
“The Savannah State program has come a long way,”
said Harrell. “It is a different program.
Their coaches have come in done a great job of coaching them and utilizing their talents. Defensively, they fly around the ball and put a lot of pressure on you and offensively, they like to throw the ball and get it in the hands of their playmakers. We have our work cut out for us.”
SSU is led by their quarterbacks Antonio Bostick and Alfred
Defillippis. They have combined for
almost 900 yards and 5 TDs. Bostick is equally dangerous as a runner, having rushed fir 82 yards and three TDs. They have some young talented receivers in their trio of sophomores Dylan Cook (14 catches, 163, 1 TD), Simon Hayward (11 receptions for 158 yards) and Bryan Lackey (9 receptions for 284 yards and 2 TDs including a 99 yarder). The Tigers rank second in the MEAC in passing offense.
On paper, that sounds like an advantage for the pass happy Tigers. But don’t tell Coach Davenport that.
“Hey, we have been looking at them on film and my coaches
and I feel that they are the best
defensive front that we have faced so far this year,’ said Davenport. “They are very well coached, well
disciplined and they are rarely out of position.”
Davenport has a point. The Bison, under defensive coordinator
Ray Petty, have played well all
season. Howard leads the MEAC in third down conversion defense (25 percent), is second in pass
defense and is third in Red Zone defense. The Howard front seven, led by All-American red-shirt junior
linebacker Keith Pough, has recorded 31 tackles for losses, 11 sacks and forced six interceptions.
Offensively, the Bison will attempt to exploit a SSU defense
that has allowed 42 points and over
442 yards per game of total offense.
Howard finally got its running game going last week as Terrance
Leffall had the best game of
his career with 148 yards rushing against a good Morgan State defense. The Bison’s ability to
run the ball takes the pressure off its outstanding freshman quarterback Greg McGhee. He has
rushed for 176 yards and passed for almost 700 yards and four TDs. But he has also been prone
to mistakes as witnessed last week when he fumbled three times against Morgan State.
“Greg McGhee is a true freshman and he is going to make
mistakes,” stated Harrell. “He
sometimes tries to do too much and puts pressure on himself. That’s when he makes mistakes.
But make no mistake. We believe in Greg McGhee and he is going to the face of this program
for the next four years.”
McGhee has twice been named the MEAC Rookie of the Week and
today was named to the First
Annual Jerry Rice Award list that includes the top freshmen players in FCS.