The 2014 Nation’s Football Classic may have been the last matchup between the Howard Bison and Morehouse Maroon Tigers, as this was the fourth year of this event and the fourth meeting between the two teams in as many years.Howard led the all time series against Morehouse 24-10 before this game. While the past three meetings had been incredibly close, the Bison came out victorious. While Howard would earn yet another win, it wasn’t by a small margin. The Bison were able to get on track in the second half to put some distance between them and the Maroon Tigers, as Howard won 35-17.
Morehouse came into this game 1-0 while Howard was 0-2 after losing to both Akron and Rutgers. The Maroon Tigers have a stud at running back in Shelton Hamilton, he had 140 yards and 2 Touchdowns against Edward Waters. The Bison have what many deem the best Quarterback in the MEAC in Greg McGhee.
The game got off to a quick start as Morehouse kicked off and forced a three and out from the Bison offense. The Maroon Tigers looked exceptional on their first drive as Monquavious Johnson kept the drive alive several times by using his legs to evade the pass rush and move the chains. The Morehouse QB delivered a strike to Lake McGuffie on a slant that went 16 yards for the game’s first score. The Maroon Tigers would miss the extrapoint and take a 6-0 lead. Howard would respond on the ensuing possession with a five play 41 yard drive to go up 7-6 on a one yard run by McGhee.
The second quarter was just as close as both teams struggled to get on track offensively, the Bison continued to apply pressure to Johnson and Morehouse could only manage a field goal. The Maroon Tiger’s defense also held up fairly well, their special teams unit did a great job converting on fourth down with two fake punt conversions. There was a very controversial play in the quarter, Morehouse’s Nikolys Barker got stripped during a tough run. Barker was in the midst of driving the pile when a Bison player stripped the ball out before a whistle was blown to “end” the play. Another Howard defender would pick the ball up and return it for a TD. Only, the officials decided to rule Barker down when he definitely wasn’t upon watching several replays. One of the staples of the Maroon Tigers offense in the first half was wide receiver screens, the Morehouse wideouts did a great job of getting yards after the catch. Howard would score in the period on an eight play 74 yard drive that was nothing short of masterful, the scoring play was a play-action roll out that left tight end Justin Chaney wide open in the end zone. Howard went into the half with a 14-9 lead.
Simply put, the Half time show was amazing. Both the Morehouse and Howard bands shared their amazing talents with the fans.
The second half, specifically the third quarter is where the game changed. Morehouse had managed to stay close with a combination of good game planning and the right mix of desperation. Any time a team is seen as unpredictable, it gives them an advantage to a degree and it definitely worked to their favor in the first half. Howard started the quarter off by delivering a huge hit on the Maroon Tiger kickoff returner, the Bison defense had also kept Hamilton to just 2.1 yards per carry. Morehouse started to use the read-option when their screen game stopped working, unfortunately that didn’t work as well as the screens. Morehouse is stopped by Howard on three straight downs, they go for another fake punt but botch the snap.
Greg McGhee and the Bison would take over in Morehouse territory following the turnover. McGhee shows off his pedigree two plays into the drive: after dropping back and seeing that no one is open, he climbs the pocket before taking off down the center of the field. He then cuts back to his left before getting knocked out at the three yard line. The scamper went for 41 yards, two plays later McGhee would score on another QB keeper to give Howard a 20-9 lead. It was evident on the ensuing Morehouse possession that the Bison did not care for their passing attack, adding folks to the box and playing a single high safety. Essentially daring the Maroon Tigers to throw the ball down the field, the Bison pass rush only got better as the game went on. After a sack by Kyle Poag, a great play on the ball by Howard’s DeAndre Price to force a fourth down. Howard would send six players after the QB to force an errant throw.
McGhee and the Bison would take over yet again, this time putting together a seven play drive that went 62 yards. That scoring drive featured several option plays, both traditional with the QB pitch to a running back and of the read-option variety. McGhee seemed to change plays at the line several times, routinely checking into a better play. McGhee called his own number in the red zone, going with a QB draw that resulted in a 17 yard run. He got two great blocks from his receivers on the scoring run. The Maroon Tigers came out with four wideouts on the next possession, they were able to move the ball a bit. It didn’t result in any points, Howard took over the game in the third quarter with 14 unanswered points.
The Maroon Tigers had a few big plays early in the fourth quarter, again they were thwarted while trying to convert on fourth down. The Bison went super conservative on offense, running the ball to take time off the clock. That led to a punt, only the third of the day for the Howard. John Fleck booms a 40 yard punt, Morehouse’s Joshua Thurston muffed the punt. Howard’s Atavious Matthews picked up the ball and ran the short distance to the endzone. Again, the officials would intervene without even an explanation. They did give Howard possession, but gave no reason as to why the play was “blown” dead. The Bison took advantage of the field possession, McGhee hit Robert Mercer on a 10 yard hitch route, Mercer shed the defender and ran the remaining seven yards to pay dirt. That score would be Howard’s last, Montavious Johnson would score for Morehouse later in the quarter to close the scoring on the day.
Howard’s offense was phenomenal in the second half, they were able to move the ball as they pleased. Their defense did a great job making Morehouse one dimensional on the offensive side of the ball. Greg McGhee played up to the billing, earning MVP honors. McGhee finished with 99 yards on the ground on ten attempts and three touchdowns. As for the passing game, he went 16 of 30 for 149 yards and two touchdowns. If this was the last time these two teams would meet in the Nation’s Football Classic, Howard went 4-0.