FAMU Downs Howard 30-26 to Win First Cricket Celebration Bowl

FAMU Trophy

ATLANTA – Florida A&M’s Jeremy Moussa tossed three fourth-period touchdowns, two to Kelvin Dean Jr., to lift the Rattlers to a 30-26 win over Howard Saturday in the 8th annual Celebration Bowl at Mercedes Benz Stadium. Both teams were making their first appearance in the game, which decides the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) national champion.

A crowd of 41,108, the third-largest in the eight-year history of the event, was in attendance, while a national audience watched via television over ABC.

The win was the second in eight years for the Southwestern Athletic Conference, represented by SWAC champion Florida A&M — three years removed from participating in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) — which was represented by Howard, the league champion. The only other SWAC win came in 2016 when Grambling defeated NC Central 10-9.

Moussa, a graduate transfer from Vanderbilt, completed 19-of-32 attempts for 289 yards and three scores to go along with two interceptions in the contest, which lifted FAMU to 12-1 on the season. He found Dean with back-to-back to back scoring passes of 21 and 53 yards early in a wild fourth quarter — that featured three lead changes and a combined 30 points by the two teams – to give the Rattlers a 24-16 advantage with 10:58 to play.

Howard, which led 16-10 at the half, then scored 10 unanswered points on a 34-yard field goal by Aaron Bickerton and a 27-yard interception return by Carson Hinton as the Bison went ahead 26-24 with 7:14 left.

FAMU regained the lead at the 5:46 mark of the period when Moussa connected on this third touchdown pass of the period, a 38-yard strike to Jah ‘Marae Sheread, to give Coach Willie Simmons’ team a 30-26 advantage and on the ensuing drive SWAC Defensive Player of the Year closed the door on a potential Bison comeback with an interception of Quentin Williams with a little over a minute left in the game.

Dean finished with three catches for 87 yards and two scores, while Sheread snared five passes for 56 yards and a touchdown. Terrell Jennings led the Rattler rushing attack with 19 carries for 68 yards and one score. The Rattlers also got a second period 41-yard field goal from Cameron Gillis.

Howard, which took an early 14-0 lead and was ahead 16-10 at the half, was led by graduate signal-caller Williams, who was true on 14-17 attempts for 106 yards, however, he suffered three picks. Nah’Shawn Hezekiah had three catches for 46 yards, and Kasey Hawthorne added three catches for 31 yards for the Bison.. Eden James led the Howard rushing with 55 yards on 12 attempts.

Howard touchdowns came on runs of eight yards and three yards by Jarrett Hunter and Hawthorne, respectively, and the interception return by Hinton. The Bison also got a safety when Moussa was sacked in the end zone by Darren Brokenburr and Aaron Bickerton’s 40-yard field goal in the fourth.

Howard, the underdog in the contest, got off to a fast start to take a 14-0 lead in the first five minutes to contest. The Bison first touchdown came on four-play, 27-yard drive which was culminated by a Hunter’s four-yard run. Dylan West’s conversation gave Coach Larry Scott’s team a 7-0 lead with 13:29 left in the opening quarter. The score was set up by a 66-yard kickoff return by Ian Wheeler to the Rattler 27.

The lead swelled to 14, when Hawthrone got his score from three yards out following a Moussa fumble, which was caused by Christian White and recovered by Hinton. The Rattlers began than comeback in the final period, following a scoreless third quarter.

The Rattlers’ Dean was named the Offensive MVP of the game, while his teammate Isaiah Major garnered Defensive MVP honors.

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