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Celebration Bowl by the numbers: Florida A&M University vs. Howard University

Here’s how the Rattlers stack up against the Bison

The Cricket Celebration Bowl will crown a new champion this year.

Howard University is making its first appearance in the game. The Bison’s 6-5 overall finish this season is their first winning season since 2017, when they finished 7-4. Howard will represent the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, which is 6-1 in Celebration Bowl play, and earned its berth by defeating Morgan State University 14-7 on Nov. 18 for its second consecutive conference title.

Florida A&M University, which represents the Southwestern Athletic Conference, recorded an 11-1 record overall this season (8-0 SWAC) and its first conference title. The Rattlers earned their first Cricket Celebration Bowl berth by defeating Prairie View A&M University 35-14 on Dec. 2 in the SWAC championship game. FAMU has a 22-2 record against SWAC opponents since joining the conference in 2021.

This year’s game will be broadcast live at noon EST Dec. 16 on ABC from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Here’s a look at both teams by the numbers.

Florida A&M University

– The Rattlers swept the Southwestern Athletic Conference postseason honors this year, with quarterback Jeremy Moussa named offensive player of the year, linebacker Isaiah Major named defensive player of the year and Willie Simmons was named coach of the year.

– Florida A&M, which finished the regular season ranked fifth in the FCS Coaches Poll, recorded its first 10-win season since 1999.

– The Rattlers’ offense ranked first in the SWAC, scoring the most touchdowns (48) and averaging the most points (30.7).

– FAMU ranks second in the FCS in total defense, allowing 4.23 yards per play, and second in scoring defense (14.25 points per game). The Rattlers also rank first in the nation in total tackles for loss (98) and second in third down defense (27.6%).

– Thirteen players on FAMU’s roster earned All-SWAC honors. Seven made the All-SWAC First Team.

Players to watch

– Moussa, a Walter Payton Award finalist for FCS offensive player of the year, currently sits atop the conference in passing yards (2,604) and touchdowns (19).

– Major led Florida A&M’s defense with 100 total tackles, including 59 solo and 41 assisted, and 11.5 tackles for loss.

– Defensive back Kendall Bohler finished the season with 37 total tackles, 14 pass breakups and two tackles for loss. His best game came against Alabama A&M University, where he had eight tackles and four pass breakups.

– Defensive back Eric Smith compiled 33 total tackles, 8 pass breakups and 3 interceptions.

Howard University

– Howard, led by coach Larry Scott, recorded its third MEAC title in the football program’s history.

– For the Bison, the game hinges on its offense. Howard comes into the Celebration Bowl ranking first in total offense in the MEAC, averaging 383.7 yards, second in passing offense with 202.8 yards per game and first in third down conversions at 46.7%.

– On defense, Howard allows an average 21.6 points, ranking second in the MEAC. The Bison are second in total defense, averaging 316.2 yards allowed per game, and first in passing yards allowed, averaging 129.5 yards per game.

– Howard is the second-least penalized team in the MEAC, with 60 penalties for 516 penalty yards this season. 

Fourteen players earned All-MEAC honors; seven made the All-MEAC First Team.

Players to watch

– On Tuesday, Howard defensive back Kenny Gallop Jr. was named the 2023 MEAC defensive player of the year. Gallop also was a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award, given to the best defensive player in FCS. He produced 61 total tackles (40 solo), with his best game coming against Norfolk State University, when he recorded 11 tackles.

Anim Dankwah and Da’Metrius Weatherspoon anchor the offensive line for the Bison. Dankwah was selected to play in the 2024 East-West Shrine Bowl and is the first Howard player to be invited since 2012

– Wide receiver Kasey Hawthorne is ranked second in the conference with 35 receptions in 10 games.

– Linebacker Terrance Hollon finished the regular season with 63 total tackles, including a season-best 13 stops against Norfolk State. 

Darren A. Nichols, a 30-year industry veteran, is an award-winning journalist and contributing columnist at the Detroit Free Press.