The last time Greg McGhee stepped on the field at RFK Stadium, a helpless feeling overcame the Howard quarterback. Relegated to the sideline because of a three-game suspension for an NCAA violation, McGhee could only watch as Howard jockeyed for control before pulling out a win against Morehouse last season.
With McGhee back under center Saturday for the third annual Nation’s Football Classic, and Howard Coach Rayford Petty touting his junior as the nation’s best quarterback among historically black colleges and universities, McGhee threw for 242 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Bison to a 27-16 victory over the Maroon Tigers. Howard has now won all three of the Nation’s Football Classics against Morehouse, with McGhee earning MVP honors this year and in 2011.
“I had a chip on my shoulder coming into the game,” McGhee said. “There’s no worse feeling watching your team play, knowing you could have did something about certain things. So I wanted to come out and show why I should have been on the field last year.”
McGhee’s impact became apparent in the second quarter. With his offensive line giving him plenty of time in the pocket, McGhee connected with Anthony Philyaw on a wheel route for a 20-yard touchdown pass to put Howard up 10-3. The Bison would score 17 more unanswered points, with McGhee picking apart a Morehouse secondary that was missing several of its starters.
“Our tempo was big,” said McGhee, who completed 21 of 27 passes. “Just catching those guys off guard and getting back to the ball as fast as possible and catching those guys in coverage that we wanted.”
Much of Howard’s success through the air came on screen plays, with Brandon Flanagan (five catches for 59 yards) and Matthew Colvin using their speed along the edges to turn short passes into long gains.
On the defensive side, the Bison compensated for the absence of top safety Julien David, who will miss the rest of the season with a torn pectoral muscle, by bringing a heavy rush to contain dual-threat quarterback Joshua Harris. Howard’s multiple formations and combinations on defense resulted in one interception and nine sacks.
“We have 10 defensive linemen rotate in, so we keep them fresh,” Petty said. “We want to get pressure on the quarterback. Our first objective is to stop the run and get behind the sticks and from there give the defensive line a chance to get loose in the pass rush.”
After Rodney Tyson snagged a 26-yard catch from McGhee across the middle and in the end zone, Howard was up 27-3 and in full control with 7 minutes 44 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
But just like the last two meetings, Morehouse began mounting a second-half comeback. A nine-yard touchdown pass from Harris to Brandon Sartin at the close of the third quarter began the momentum shift.
Three minutes later, Shelton Hamilton punctuated a 90-yard drive by diving over the goal line for a three-yard touchdown run that cut the Maroon Tigers’ deficit to 27-16. A successful fake punt then pushed the Maroon Tigers into Howard territory. But a third-down sack by Marquese Blanchard and an incomplete pass by Harris ended Morehouse’s chances of snapping a five-game losing streak to the Bison.