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HBCU GameTime: Florida A&M vs. Howard is the pick of the week

Florida A&M quarterback Damien Fleming in action. / Courtesy FAMU Sports Info.
Florida A&M quarterback Damien Fleming in action. / Courtesy FAMU Sports Info.

With the way the Tigers are playing now and remaining games against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Southern, and Prairie View A&M in the State Fair Classic this weekend in Dallas, it is unlikely they will put that kind of run together this year.

Boxtorow National Game of the Week: Florida A&M (2-3, 2-0) vs. Howard (3-1, 2-0)

It was an outside possibility that Florida A&M would have been atop the MEAC standings two weeks into the conference season, but who would have though the Howard Bison would be?

Howard football?

It has been some tough times in D.C., but that seems to be changing with second-year head coach Garry Harrell as the head man. “The Flea,” as he’s known, is the all-time leading receiver in Howard history and was part of Howard’s Black college national championship team in 1993. He is putting his stamp on the program just one-and-a-half seasons in.

Julien David. / Courtesy of Howard University Sports Info.

Julien David. / Courtesy of Howard University Sports Info.

After falling to Rutgers 26-0 the week before, Howard defeated Norfolk State 37-36 in overtime in Norfolk, and obliterated Savannah State last week 56-9. While quarterback Greg McGhee was expected to be the main weapon on offense, Howard’s run-in with the NCAA over student-athletes book vouchers has sidelined McGhee for a couple of games.

Enter Randy Liggins and Jamie Cunningham, who combined are completing 62 percent of their passes with four touchdowns and no interceptions and are managing the game and not making mistakes. Similarly, at the running back position, Terrence Leffall who was to be Howard’s primary back also has had to sit out and Aquaniu Freeman and William Parker have filled in nicely with a combined 521 yards, 6.6 yards per carry and five touchdowns.

Where the offense is able to move the ball (334.5 total offensive yards per game) and score points (30.8), the defense is giving up 381 yards and 25 points per game.  All-American linebacker Keith Pough is beginning to round into mid-season form (24 tackles four tackles for loss) but defensive back Julien David and linebacker Tabrian Resby have combined for 56 tackles. The Bison only have one interception (David) on the season and will need to force FAMU’s Damien Fleming, the top quarterback in the MEAC, into turning the ball over.

Speaking of Fleming, he is completing 71 percent of his passes for 1,091 yards, 10 touchdowns and has thrown only three picks. He is also a threat to run the football, rushing for 171 yards this season. His three leading receivers Travis Harvey, Lenworth Lennon and Admasen Felix have combined for 75 receptions and eight touchdowns.

What aids the Rattler passing attack is a solid running game led by James Owen (36-241-3) and Eddie Rocker (53-228).

Fumbles have been a point of contention for head coach Joe Taylor and fumbles at the most inopportune time probably cost the Rattlers a win against Tennessee State and the Rattlers’ 21-14 loss to Southern in the Atlanta Football Classic last week.

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