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Hampton beats Howard 20-17 in what could be the last game in the ‘Real HU’ football rivalry

On a Bison Hail Mary, Pirates DB Dereon Carr comes up with the game-sealing pick

Two days after finding out it would be moving out of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, a league it has been a member of for 22 years, Hampton’s football team beat archrival Howard 20-17 in front of a packed stadium Saturday.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Bison’s Caylin Newton threw a desperation pass on fourth down, but Pirates defensive back Dereon Carr went up and plucked the ball out of the air to shut the door on Howard’s comeback.

“We probably found out two days ago,” Carr said. “It wasn’t nothing that was talked about. When it happened, [coach Connell Maynor] let us know that this is what was going to be happening.

“This game definitely had a lot of significance being with all the hype around Caylin Newton and his brother being Cam Newton. It was just too much hype, and we wanted to shut all the haters up and let them know this is Hampton football. That pick meant a lot to me, because this season didn’t go how I expected it to go, so this showed I can go out there and really compete at a high level.”

Carr was immediately dog-piled by teammates as the Pirates (6-5, 5-3 MEAC) closed their 2017 season with a win. Yahkee Johnson’s 12-yard run, in which he made a hard cut to the right as the defenders over-pursued, with 11:07 remaining in the game gave Hampton the winning points. Johnson finished the game with 144 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.

This was the Pirates’ third consecutive win in the Battle of the Real HU.

“I just saw grass, and Coach always says when you see the green grass you run to it,” Johnson said. “The play was actually designed to go left, but the defense over-pursued, so I saw the cutback and it was up to me for the rest.

“At the end of the day, we gotta play teams. We’ll still be playing other teams from the MEAC, so that’ll kind of make it more interesting. We’ll still be playing Howard and Norfolk State, so it’ll still be interesting.”

Athletic director Eugene Marshall Jr. on Thursday discussed how Hampton will always be a historically black institution and will continue to play MEAC schools, but he also said the school felt it was time to move on.

Tennessee State, an Ohio Valley Conference member, is the only other Division I historically black college or university (HBCU) not in a historically black league. Hampton athletic teams are scheduled to shift over to the Big South Conference by July 2018.

“But as we look at the bigger picture, of trying to build the best mid-sized athletic program in the country,” Marshall told The Virginian-Pilot at the news conference, “you have to take steps. We’re not leaving. We’re just expanding our reach.

“I believe the move to the Big South will enhance our profile and our visibility around the nation. And that will enhance our revenue.”

But the question remains for many students and alumni, who found out Thursday like the football team, when exactly is the next time they’ll play a MEAC foe in football? Some people question whether fans will turn out if years of tradition and rivalries are being tossed out with the move.

Hampton president William Harvey said during Thursday’s announcement that playing schools closer to Hampton would reduce travel expenses and allow student-athletes more time to study. But students look forward to seeing their friends when opposing MEAC teams come to town, and that will be lost as Hampton moves to the Big South.

Even Howard students questioned what will happen to their rivalry with Hampton’s decision to leave.

“I’m excited to be the last team to beat ’em before they switch from MEAC to the Big South Conference,” Howard senior linebacker Elijah Anglin said before the game. “I wonder if the rivalry will continue now that they’re leaving the conference.”

The Pirates did play well enough to win perhaps the last game of the Real HU football rivalry.

Rhiannon Walker is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a drinker of Sassy Cow Creamery chocolate milk, an owner of an extensive Disney VHS collection, and she might have a heart attack if Frank Ocean doesn't drop his second album.

Kyla L. Wright is a Rhoden Fellow and a sophomore journalism major, graphic design minor from Detroit. She attends Hampton University and writes for the Hampton Script.