A&T-Howard Rivalry Kicks Off MEAC Play

Former Howard quarterback Jay Walker will call the A&T-Howard game Thursday night on ESPNU. (Photo Courtesy of Howard Athletics)

If there’s anything the MEAC needed after a dreadful Week Four of the college football season, it’s A&T vs. Howard. More specifically, a matchup of good Aggie and Bison squads. When these two teams meet Thursday night on ESPNU, not only will they be kicking off the 2013 MEAC season, they’ll be looking to reignite the fire of one of the conference’s fiercest rivalries.

Once the cream of the MEAC, these two schools have spent the better part of a decade lingering in conference purgatory, with nothing but memories of the good old days to keep them warm as they suffered through losing season after losing season. From 2004 to 2011, neither team recorded a winning record, and both went through several coaches.

The seeds for the return for greatness were sown in 2011 when both programs hired new coaches. Howard brought back one of its own in Gary “Flea” Mitchell, one of its best receivers of all-time. A&T brought in Rod Broadway, a North Carolina native and ex-NCCU and Grambling coach. Not much changed record-wise in 2011, but both teams experienced a breakout in 2012. Both Howard and A&T finished 7-4, just behind MEAC champion Bethune-Cookman.

// So now we come to Thursday’s matchup. Howard’s record currently sits at 1-2, while A&T is perfect at 2-0. The Aggies are riding high off wins against Appalachian State and Elon, while Howard is looking to rebound from a 76-19 loss at Old Dominion. A&T comes into the game with just two offensive touchdowns, but with a defense and special teams unit that has looked like world-beaters so far. Howard gave FBS Eastern Michigan all it could handle on the road before falling short in its opener, then beat D2 Morehouse in the Nation’s Classic before the ODU blowout.

The key matchup in this game will be Howard’s offense and A&T’s defense. Howard leads the conference in total offense, averaging almost 400 yards per game while A&T allowed just four touchdowns in its two games this season. The turnover battle will be key in this game, as Howard can ill afford to allow an opportunistic defense opportunities to either score or setup its offense for easy scores.

// The key player to watch will be Howard’s quarterback Greg McGhee. If he can navigate the A&T defense, not turn the ball over, and find a way to come up with a few scores, it will put A&T’s offense under pressure to score. I like the Aggies in this one, but if Howard is able to move the ball without turnovers, it could get interesting.

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