Monday, August 2, 2010

Howard University Bison

At the conclusion of every Spring Practice (dating all the way back to the chilly nights in March) and the subsequent practices that will occur in Summer Camp in less than a week’s time, there is a resounding shout to the tune of “Beat Howard!” that comes from the new turf field behind the Hart Center. Ever since the conclusion of the 1st Round FCS Playoff game against the Villanova Wildcats, a game that saw the Crusaders lose to the eventual national champions 38-28, the men in purple have been competing against and hitting only each other. 

With the class of 2010 seniors graduating (one of the most successful classes in recent memory), healthy competition for positions has pushed the team to new heights. Rest assured, once September 4th rolls around, the season opener against Howard will feature a fiercer competition compared to the healthy one exhibited in camp. Being able to hit a different color jersey for the first time in over nine months always brings about a renewed sense of invigoration and energy. Now, let’s find out just what we can expect from the Howard University Bison. 

Quick Facts and an Overview of the Bison:

Location: Washington, DC
Founded: 1867
Enrollment: 10,500
Nickname: Bison
President: Dr. Sidney Ribeau
Conference: Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference
Head Coach: Carey Bailey (4th season)
Record at Howard: 7-26
Career record: 7-26
2009 Overall Record: 2-9
2009 MEAC Record: 0-8
Starters Returning/Lost on Offense 7/4; on Defense: 5/6

The season opening game for every college football team is always a bit of a mystery. With first game butterflies and jitters, little game film (if any at all) available to study, and an opponent from a conference that your program has never before played in its history, there are numerous unknowns heading into that first game. However, here are some of the major aspects of Howard that we do know and what we can expect:

·         Speed and athleticism
·         They possess the ability to score from anywhere on the field
·         They are BIG
·         Primarily a pro-style offense, but will this change?
·         Don’t know how to win
·         Nothing to lose mentality

Traditionally, the MEAC is not one of the stronger conferences throughout the FCS. Last year, the MEAC was rated as the fourth worst conference in FCS football, and Howard was rated as the eighth worst team (both of these rankings are according to Jeff Sagarin). This does not mean, however, that the MEAC is lacking a good deal of talent. Although the teams comprising the MEAC may struggle to win games (South Carolina State and Florida A&M are two exceptional FCS teams, however), they manage to produce NFL caliber players. Currently, there are a total of 30 former MEAC football players on NFL rosters; five of these players went to Howard. For comparison sake, there are only six former Patriot Leaguers on NFL rosters. Suffice to say, while the entire makeup of the Howard football team may not be strong, there may be flashes of NFL talent, speed, and athleticism running rampant on Fitton Field.

I am sure the Crusaders will constantly be reminded of number 12 throughout the preseason camp. This is the number of Willie Carter (pictured right), a potential All American candidate for the Bison. Even though Howard primarily ran a pro-style offense last year that is a balanced mix of running and passing, Carter still managed to haul in 46 receptions and scored six touchdowns (Howard scored 12 touchdowns the entire year). Carter is primarily responsible for the first two bullet points as he can score from anywhere on the field. A Coach Gilmore defense will always know where Carter is on the field at all times.

The Bison bring a big and hefty front five into the trenches as they average 296 pounds across the line. This brings me to my next point: the Bison offense. Customarily, a good offensive line is consistent with a good offense. This will certainly be a looming question for the Crusader coaching staff throughout camp as they prepare for Howard. What offense will they be running? Brad Bernard was hired as the Quarterbacks Coach and Offensive Coordinator earlier this year; he comes to Howard after spending the last 12 seasons at Bethune-Cookman. Considering Howard scored a paltry 12 touchdowns last season and averaged just 225 yards a game, I think it is safe to assume an entirely new offensive system will be instilled this year down in DC. What will this offense be? Bernard was known for running the triple-option while at B-C, so this may be an indication that this may be the offense that comes to Howard. I guess we will find out for sure, however, when Howard goes through its pregame routine on September 4th.

Howard’s last winning season was back in 2004 when they went 6-5. Since the ’04 season, Howard has gone 16-39, and in the last two seasons they have combined to go 3-19. Winning is a bit of a foreign notion at Howard as they have not found the winning formula, however, 2010 is a new season; everyone starts 0-0. While Howard will be seen as an underdog upon entering Worcester as they match up against the 2009 Patriot League Champions, they truly have nothing to lose. Being able to play freely, loosely, and with the house money will certainly play to their advantage.

It is imperative that the Crusaders start out on the right foot with a win because the road does not get any easier in the coming weeks. After Howard, HC travels down the road to Amherst to play the UMASS Minutemen, and then the following week play one of their biggest rivals in the Harvard Crimson. One thing is for absolute certain though, a Tom Gilmore coached team that is led by the tri-captains of Anthony DiMichele, Freddie Santana, and Sean Lamkin will be prepared in all facets of the game come September 4th.

To quote PurplePeopleEater: “Let’s do it again in 2010!”

Kevin Doyle '11


  1. Have no idea how this game will play out...biggest ? has to be who will be the new Sader QB.

    Like the fact that we are playing someone "different." Though I'd prefer Army, Howard at least beats somewhat Sacred Heart, Marist et. al. as an opponent.

  2. I am with you. Baby steps though. The Patriot League media day is tomorrow. Will we get questions answered? I do enjoy playing one of the premiere HBCU in Howard as opposed to another NEC team. I would not object to playing CCSU or Albany (both out of the NEC), however. They have really revamped their football teams within the last few years.