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Bison Fall Short to Hampton in Annual Chicago Football Classic

The Howard Bison fell to the Hampton Pirates, 41-20. Photo by David Sierra.

By Kira Nicole Grant

The Howard University Bison fell short to the Hampton Pirates in their third consecutive contest, in an appearance at Soldier Field for the 22nd annual Chicago Football Classic on Saturday, Sept. 14.

After dominating the first quarter of the rivalry showdown, several blunders and turnovers caught up to the Bison (0-3), as the Pirates (2-1) went all in for a 41-20 upset in an intense battle for the naming rights of the real “HU.”

The Chicago Football Classic, co-founded by Larry Huggins and twin brothers, Everett and Tim Brand, was created in 1997 to encourage the youth to attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The classic aims to go beyond the contest with the addition of the Chicago Football Classic Scholarship Fund to support the disadvantaged youth, along with hosting an HBCU Career Fair. 

This year’s classic allowed long-term rivals Howard University and Hampton University, to faceoff in their first meeting since Hampton departed from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) in 2018.

Both teams couldn’t overcome a slow start in the first six minutes of the game, resulting in four scoreless possessions. The Bison took an early lead in the game during their third drive with a 39-yard field goal by freshman kicker Nick Farris after a nine-play drive. Defensively the Bison dominated the Pirates for the remaining 5 minutes of the first quarter, hindering Pirates quarterback Deondre Francois and his offense from mustering any yardage.

In the Pirates’ third drive of the first quarter on 3rd & 8, sophomore defensive linemen Zamon Robinson hurried Francois and forced him to throw an errant pass—ending the drive. On their next drive, the Bison defense stood firm again, causing confusion on the offensive side of the ball for Francois, forcing the pocket to break down. Freshman defensive back Dominic Logan-Nealy stopped the drive after pressuring Francois to throw an incomplete pass to wide receiver Ronald Bell. 

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The Bison’s glory did not carry over into the second quarter after Newton’s costly pass in the red zone, was intercepted by junior cornerback Markel Valdez. In Hampton’s first drive of the second quarter, Francois connected with running back Darran Butts for a 70-yard bomb to take the lead 7-3. The following three drives were busts for both teams, resulting in a missed 39-yard field goal attempt by Farris.  

Hampton extended the lead to 13-3 when Francois connected with sophomore wide receiver Jadakis Bonds for a 68-yard touchdown, but sophomore kicker Evan Lomax missed the extra point. 

The Bison did not throw in the towel despite being down and responded with a 25-yard field goal from Farris to make the contest a one-possession game, 13-6. 

Francois connected with Bonds again for a 5-yard pass, resulting in his second touchdown of the evening after Butts took the kickoff 90-yards to the Howard 5-yard line. The Pirates extended the lead to 20-6, but Howard fired back moments before intermission. Newton with a 15-yard touchdown pass to redshirt senior tight end Michael Cornwell, his first as a Bison, then trailing only 20-13.

After the intermission, Hampton took off steady and dominated the third quarter with two rushing touchdowns from redshirt sophomore running back William Robinson and Bonds. 

Newton fired back and connected with Boyd for a 4-yard toss and score in the fourth quarter to cut the lead, with a good extra point 34-20 but to no avail. The Pirates secured their victory with 8 minutes remaining in the fourth-quarter after Francois completed another touchdown pass, with a good kick from Lomax extending the lead 41-20. 

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Hampton leads the respective football rivalry in “The Battle of Real HU” birthed in 1908, although Howard University founded in 1867 and Hampton Institute in 1868—taking the alias “Hampton University” in 1984. 

“It’s such a big thing to come from either Howard or Hampton!” said Sydney Johnson, junior television and film major and former Men’s Basketball manager says. “The rivalry has been set for so many years, but at the end of the day it’s all love because we’re both HBCUs. But obviously, I’ll always support the Bison because of the culture and environment. Our name speaks for itself.”

Kiana Fludd, a junior sports management major at Howard University and Bison football fan, says this long-term rivalry beyond the sport is one-sided; however, she further explained that the football rivalry is beneficial to both programs. 

“It’s healthy to have a rivalry with another school because now you’re competing with each other and moving each other up to greatness,” said Fludd.

The Bison are scheduled to take on Delaware State (1-1) in a conference matchup Saturday, Sept. 21 at 2 p.m. in Delaware, hungry for their first win.

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