2014 Record: 5-7
F/+ Rank: N/A
Wins: Morehouse, Delaware State, Savannah State, Central Connecticut, Hampton
Losses: Akron, Rutgers, Morgan State, North Carolina A&T, North Carolina Central, Bethune-Cookman, Florida A&M
Season Recap: The first two games of the season brought Howard on the road to two FBS opponents with two very different outcomes. Opening up the season against Akron, the Zips throttled the Bison, 41-0, as Howard surrendered 513 yards (400 through the air) and 21 first quarter points. Offensively, they only managed 216 yards, 68 through the air and averaged 2.9 yards per carry.
The next week, Howard visited Rutgers, taking a 7-0 lead before giving up 31 first half points. The Bison played much better in the second half and wound up outgaining the Knights, 427-397, averaging six yards per carry in the process. Despite the improvement, though, Rutgers cruised to a victory.
In the third game of the season, Howard won their first game of the year - against Division II Morehouse College - 35-17. But they promptly lost five in a row, all in MEAC play, to wind up 1-7 heading into the last month of the season.
That's when the Bison finally turned it on. Greg McGhee led the offense to four straight victories, including a 51-21 win over Savannah State. In the season finale, trailing Hampton 26-7 in the third quarter, the team scored three straight touchdowns, and John Fleck kicked a 17-yard field goal with 20 seconds left to give the DC-based school a 30-29 victory in "The Battle of the Real HU."
Series: First Meeting
First matchup: N/A
Last matchup: N/A
After leading the Bison to a second place finish in the MEAC in 2012, head coach Gary Harrell sat out the '13 season to deal with personal issues. He returned last season to lead the team to their 5-7 record, tied for seventh in the league at 3-5.
Harrell is a relatively young guy at only 43 years old, a "Howard guy" after having played for the Bison between 1990 and 1993. He spent the 1995 season with the New York Giants, then spent the 1996 season split between the Frankfurt Galaxy of the World League and the CFL's Montreal Alouettes. In 2002, he returned to Howard as receivers coach for two seasons before bouncing between Texas Southern, Florida A&M, Morgan State, and Bowie State (D2). He "returned home" in 2011 as the head coach.
Quarterback Greg McGhee is the main focal point of the offense, so it's a good thing he's back for his senior year. He gained over 3,000 yards by himself last season, having thrown for 2,388 and rushing for 847. He accounted for 28 touchdowns, 13 on the ground.
Lineman Situation: The Howard offensive line is very young but still retain two of the best linemen in the MEAC. Malcolm Rutledge is a returning senior who is a big body at 6'4", 315 pounds, and Deonta Allen-Wright stands 6'5" and 305 pounds.
Unfortunately for Howard, however, the rest of their line is either undersized or young or both. The majority of the linemen on their roster are redshirt freshmen or sophomores, and they are either under 6'5" or under 300 pounds. That means they'll be lining up against defensive linemen who are bigger or stronger. Luckily for the Bison, that might allow them to just cut loose their QB for some runs, but it could be some serious bad news, too.
Returning Quarterback: Yes
Greg McGhee is the returning MEAC Offensive Player Of The Year. As mentioned above, he's the focal point of the offense, and he's a guy who really grabbed the last month by the horns with his leadership. He's a good signal caller for the MEAC, which obviously doesn't translate well when they're playing an ACC team, but he should at least be able to make or break a couple of entertaining plays.
That's especially true if BC cruises early. He played better than average to exceptional against the Rutgers backups in the second half.
Biggest Problem for 2015: The defense was throttled last year, giving up an average of 418 yards per game. Opponents scored 30 points per game, marginally better than the 25.5 Howard scored. If the Bison are able to at least lower that by one score per game, they're back on the positive side of .500 and moving up the MEAC standings again.
The lack of a true running game with solid backs or receivers is going to be a problem for the Bison all year unless someone steps to the forefront. The best FCS teams are usually the teams who have one solid player at each skill position. Unfortunately for the Bison, they're deficient in a couple of those positions.
Biggest Strength for 2015: The band. I mean this wholeheartedly that I will happily scrap the Screaming Eagles Marching Band at halftime if it means we can be entertained by one of the absolute best in the world.
No but seriously, if there's one thing, it's going to be the play of the quarterback. McGhee is the type of player who does very good things in the FCS and will win the Bison a couple of games. He has big play ability, which, again, against younger players prone to mistakes will make him someone to watch late in the BC game.