Though it may not have always been pretty, Florida A&M pulled out what turned out to be an exciting 30-26 victory over Howard in the Celebration Bowl. With the HBCU season now at an end, here are three takeaways from the 2023 iteration of the Celebration Bowl
The Dark Cloud defense lived up to its billing
Kendall Bohler with the interception to give the ball back to the Rattlers!
Coming into the game, Florida A&M’s defense was ranked nationally in several categories, and the prowess of the FAMU defensive unit was on display for the entire HBCU world to see. With the offense tripping over itself for portions of the contest, The Rattlers’ defense helped the team stay within striking distance while the offense found its footing. FAMU held the second most prolific run game into the MEAC to just 81 yards, even less than the 5th stingiest unit against the run allows typically.
Howard’s offensive limitations were costly
The Howard University offense averaged 26.4 points per game this season, making them the fourth leading scorer in the six-team MEAC. Despite those modest numbers, Howard is offensively limited. The Bison have only scored 30 or more four times in the season.
Howard was able to put up 26 points on the afternoon, 16 of which came from the direct efforts of the defense, either scoring themselves or causing a takeaway that set the table for the offense. As the game wore on, the limitation of the Howard offense became more evident, as they showed an inability to put together consistent, productive drives.
The Bison could only generate 187 yards of offense and just 106 through the air. As coach Larry Scott and the Howard football team move into the offseason, improving play on the offensive side of the ball will be paramount.
Florida A&M will be here for a while
The Rattlers will lose many key impact players, such as quarterback Jeremy Moussa, Defensive Player of the Year Isaiah Major, wideouts Jah’Marae Sheread and Marcus Riley, and second-leading rusher Terrell Jennings.
However, despite these significant losses, if the Rattlers can maintain or improve their high level of recruiting over recent years, they can still be an important player in the SWAC.
Grambling and Texas Southern have yet to fill head coaching vacancies; Bethune-Cookman, Mississippi Valley, and Arkansas Pine Bluff are all entering year two with new coaches and programs that are still in the early stages on the road to fielding competitive teams. With such uncertainly swirling around the SWAC, a second run to a conference is a real possibility.