MEAC, SWAC Champions Howard And FAMU To Faceoff In 2023 Cricket Celebration Bowl

MEAC, SWAC Champions Howard And FAMU To Faceoff In 2023 Cricket Celebration Bowl

HBCU Conference Champions Howard and Florida A&M will battle in the Celebration Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Dec. 16.

The Howard Bison and the Florida A&M Rattlers will battle in the Cricket Celebration Bowl, the annual HBCU National Championship game, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Dec. 16.

Both Howard and FAMU will bring strong running games featuring multiple runners to the Celebration Bowl.

Howard qualified for the Celebration Bowl for the first time in school history after defeating Morgan State 14-7 on Nov. 18 to finish with a 6-5 overall record and a 4-1 record in the MEAC, as its only loss came to South Carolina State.

Howard’s football coach, Larry Scott, who has been named a finalist for the 2023 Eddie Robinson Award, said to come away with the win, the Bison must play their game and simultaneously force the Rattlers into uncomfortable situations.

“We have to take care of the football, possess the football, be good on third down, do things that force them to come out of character offensively, and maybe do things they don’t do well, so I think we’re going to have to dictate the pace and tempo of the game, and we’ll do that throughout physicality,” Scott told Black Enterprise. “We have to be able to stay on the field on critical downs and possessions, and then when we get into the red zone, we have to come away with touchdowns and not field goals, so it’s going to come down to just playing really good situational football, being good in situational downs, possessing the ball and coming away with touchdowns.”

FAMU went undefeated in the SWAC (8-0) on its way to an 11-1 overall record, winning 10 straight games since losing to the University of South Florida in September.

The Rattlers feature a multi-tier rushing attack. Running backs Terrell Jennings, Kelvin Dean, and Jaquez Yan all have at least 70 carries, 300 yards rushing, and three touchdowns this season. Quarterback Jeremy Moussa is also having a solid season with 2,6904 yards passing, 19 touchdowns, and seven interceptions this season.

The Rattlers also have a stout defense featuring Anthony Dunn Jr. and Gentle Hunt, who both have five sacks this season. Defensive backs Eric Smith and Javan Morgan have both had three interceptions this season.

“I think every game comes down to some basic things for us; offensively, it’s always about being able to establish the run, control the line of scrimmage, and get first downs; that’s our number one goal on offense,” FAMU Coach Willie Simmonds said.

“Defensively, it’s real simple; we have to stop the run. Howard is a team that prides itself on being able to run the ball, and they have some dynamic running backs, so we need to stop the run and control the line of scrimmage up front on the defensive side; that means filling our gaps and as we always tell our defense make them snap it again, which means eliminate the big plays.”

Simmons added that the kicking game will also be a big factor.

“In the last few years in the Celebration Bowl, you typically see a huge special team play that can swing the game, so we have to make sure we’re the ones making those plays and not giving them up. That means great coverage and great protection on our kicks; those are typically the recipes for success for our team.”

The Celebration Bowl has occurred yearly in Atlanta since 2015, beginning at the Georgia Dome before moving to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2021. In last year’s Celebration Bowl, North Carolina Central defeated Jackson State University 41-34 in Deion Sanders’ final game with the Tigers. The game was played in front of a Celebration Bowl record 49,670 fans, and another record-setting crowd is expected this year.

The game will also feature a battle of the bands halftime event between the FAMU Marching 100 and Howard’s Showtime Marching Band. The full event schedule for the Celebration Bowl can be seen here.