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Homecoming Preview: Invading Spartans

This Howard Homecoming, facing off against the Norfolk State Spartans, the Bison football team is hoping to win their second consecutive homecoming game and remedy their last loss.

(Kyle Alexander/The Hilltop)

The Howard University Bison football team will face the Norfolk State Spartans in the homecoming game, with both teams currently tied in overall standing. The game, followed by the tailgate, will fill Greene Stadium with fans from the entire HBCU community and the surrounding street will have a plethora of food trucks to choose from. 

The Howard Bison football team looks to defend their territory as they prepare to host the Norfolk State Spartans for this year’s homecoming game. Both teams currently hold a 2-3 record and look to edge the other out for second place in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC). 

The Bison have an upcoming game against the Harvard Crimson before facing the Spartans. Howard is a battle-tested team, with two blowout victories, outscoring their opponents 100-29 in those games. The Bison have also gone toe-to-toe with schools at the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level, the highest level of play for college football. Even though they lost to the two FBS schools, Eastern Michigan and Northwestern, they demonstrated their resilience, being outscored 43-56 in those games.

Despite the losing record, the Bison are a team that performs more competitively than their record might suggest. Their strong running game, opening up opportunities for the rest of the offense, along with their ability to make in-game adjustments helps to keep the Bison in any game. 

Before facing Howard, the Spartans will compete against the Tennessee State Tigers. The Spartans also have a 2-3 record and have outscored their opponents 52-37 in their victories. In their lone game against an FBS school, they lost 9-41 against the Temple Owls. The Spartans are still a consistent offense, as that loss was the only game this year where they didn’t score 20 points or more. The Spartans are powered by their own running game, but the numbers suggest that they’re outmatched on the defensive side.

Both teams have found success running the ball. Howard averages 204 rushing yards a game with a 5.4-yard per carry, while Norfolk State averages 197.8 rushing yards per game with 4.5 yards per carry. However, the Spartans have a strong rushing attack to counter Howard’s, allowing an average of 249 rushing yards a game and 6.6 yards per carry, resulting in 14 rushing touchdowns.

Howard’s defense allows an average of 151.8 rushing yards per game at 4.5 yards per carry, with 8 rushing touchdowns given up. The Bison maintain a balanced attack on offense, averaging over 200 yards or more in both rushing and passing per game. Opposingly, the Spartans average a time of possession of about 33 minutes per game. If the Bison want to defend their field on homecoming, the key will be to neutralize the Spartans’ run game and force long third-down situations on the defensive side. On offense, they will have to get the run game established and win the time of possession battle. 

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Homecoming is always an important tradition for schools, especially HBCUs. It’s about honoring the past and celebrating the future of the school. Armani Washington, the Bison’s 85th Miss Howard, spoke about the meaning of homecoming and honoring that tradition, while also providing her expectations for the game.

“I feel like this is going to be a really good game, simply for the fact that it’s homecoming season, you know [coming] off of really close wins,” Washington stated.

Howard has shown the ability to fight until the end, as two of their losses were by one possession and the other loss was by two possessions. “I think because it’s a testament of legacy,” said Washington when asked about the importance of homecoming. “Homecoming is a celebration of all of those people that came before us to create the campus that we have now. Because this game is going to be shown in front of past football players, in front of past sports teams and enthusiasts, in front of everybody that has made Howard what it is today. That’s what makes it special, because everyone in that crowd is just rooting for Howard.”

Another aspect that makes this game important for the Bison is the fact that they lost to Norfolk State on homecoming two years ago. When asked if this should be looked at as a revenge game, Washington answered, “Oh absolutely.” With numerous alumni and students preparing for the biggest moment of the school year, the Bison look to win their second straight homecoming game, as well as reconciling what happened two years ago.

Copy edited by Whitney Meritus 

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