Three underclassmen players on the Morehouse College football team are more than ready to compete on Saturday (Sept. 17) against Howard University in a historic matchup at MetLife Stadium. Azola Martin, a sophomore defensive back from Detroit; Bradley Johnson, a sophomore defensive lineman from Las Vegas; and Myles Lee, a freshman running back out of Fresno, California are each prepared to lead the charge against a tough Division I opponent.
This classic HBCU football matchup began in 1923. Since then, these teams have competed 37 times, with Howard leading the series 25-10-2. Both teams, however, leave the past behind as they look forward to earning their first win of the 2022 college football season.
The Maroon Tigers (0-2) are eager to make a statement this weekend, despite their underdog status. The energy around Morehouse College’s campus is high going into this matchup. But no one is more driven than the younger players on the team.
For these players, taking the field as HBCU football players has changed their experiences as football players for the better. The speed and mentality of college football proved to be a steep learning curve. Most notably, competing with and against other Black players takes precedence over all other college football experiences.
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Lee, like many other Morehouse players, was one of the few Black players on his high school team in Fresno. Despite being the state with the fifth-largest Black population in the U.S., California notably does not have any HBCUs within its borders. As such, the freshman running back is ecstatic about the opportunity to play alongside his brothers.
“When you play the game with your people, it makes the game way more engaging and fun,” Lee said. “You feel way closer to your brothers and being at Morehouse is all about brotherhood.”
The game against Howard also represents a milestone for these younger players. Years of arduous work, on and off the field, have culminated in this unique HBCU gameday experience.
Martin, a safety, considers this opportunity a crucial step in his development.
“Being able to play in New York is a huge thing for any young man out there,” Martin said. “On a personal level, it just shows how far I’ve come as a player and as a man.”
Making the travel roster for the game is also an achievement for younger players. The roster only has room for 60 active players, chosen based on specific needs for the game. The Maroon Tigers have 100 players in total, making it very competitive for underclassmen to earn a roster spot.
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“Getting on the travel roster is a big deal,” Johnson said. “You want to show the coaches that you can potentially be one of the best guys on the team.”
After suffering a home loss to the University of West Georgia last week, younger players are excited about the team’s new mindset going into this weekend. The players are hoping to return to a more disciplined Morehouse brand of football with fewer penalties as seen in their close season-opening loss against West Alabama. Johnson, who has started every game this season, is more than up for the test.
“Being an underdog is definitely a challenge,” Johnson said. “But it’s nothing Morehouse football can’t handle.”
When asked about the game’s impact on HBCU culture, these three players agreed on a common theme. On a broader level, the New York Football Classic reflects the mission of HBCUs in terms of gaining national recognition, competing with predominantly white institutions, and sharing African American culture with the world.
To fans of the team, underclassmen players send their deepest thanks for their support. To the haters, the players also send their thanks, for adding fuel to the Maroon Tiger fire.
Author’s Note: Kennedy Edgerton is a filmmaker, journalist, District of Columbia-native, and senior studying Cinema, Television, and Emerging Media Studies with a minor in Journalism at Morehouse College. Kennedy has written for Morehouse College’s Maroon Tiger newspaper since 2021. He is a passionate storyteller and aspires to become a screenwriter and journalist. You can follow him on Instagram @kennedyedgerton
The Howard Bison take on the Morehouse Tigers this Saturday, September 17 in the inaugural HBCU New York Football Classic at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Live coverage begins at 3:00 p.m. ET on Peacock and CNBC.
RELATED: 2022 HBCU NY Classic – Morehouse and Howard’s Long-Awaited Reunion
The historic rivalry between Howard University and Morehouse college, two of the most prestigious HBCU’s in the nation, will be one of three exciting HBCU college football showdowns featured this year on NBC Sports. On Saturday, November 26 the 49th annual Bayou Classic between Southern University and Grambling State will take place at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana (2:00 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock).
Then, on Saturday, December 17, the best and brightest college football all-stars will have the opportunity to showcase their talent in front of NFL scouts and a national audience at the 2022 HBCU Pigskin Showdown at the Marion Military Institute in Marion, Alabama (1:00 p.m. ET on CNBC and Peacock). See below for additional information on how to watch each game.
RELATED: NBC Sports to present three HBCU College Games this Season
The game will start at 3:00 p.m. ET.
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Entering Week 3 of the 2022 College Football season, several Big Ten teams are off to a strong start, including two teams sitting in the top four (No. 3 Ohio State and No. 4 Michigan) and two more in the top 25 (No. 11 Michigan State and No. 22 Penn State). Meanwhile, other teams in the conference are not starting 2022 as they’d hoped, with Wisconsin coming off a surprising defeat at the hands of unranked Washington State and Iowa losing to rival Iowa State as the Hawkeyes struggle to make anything happen offensively.
No program has been as thoroughly disappointed as Nebraska, though, whose head coach Scott Frost was fired Sunday. How Nebraska reacts is among the storylines to watch in the conference this week, along with Michigan State and Penn State’s intriguing non-conference road games.
The Huskers enter a rivalry contest against No. 6 Oklahoma (2-0) under interim head coach Mickey Joseph after Scott Frost’s ouster, which came following two early-season losses to Northwestern and the Sun Belt’s Georgia Southern. After paying Southern nearly $1.5 million for the loss, Nebraska (1-2) decided to pay $15 million more to buy out Frost, which the school deemed urgent enough not to wait until October 1st, when the buyout would’ve been reduced by $7.5 million. Frost had coached the Huskers to four losing seasons before this one, the worst of which came last year with a 3-9 record.
Joseph says he’s hoping to not just be an interim solution for Nebraska, where he played quarterback from 1988 to 1991 and joined the coaching staff this season after several seasons at LSU. He is the first Black head coach at Nebraska, interim or permanent, in any sport. Joseph, 54, will coach the team for the remainder of the season.
At 1-2, the Huskers are likely already out of the conversation to compete for a Big Ten division or conference title, but there are certainly some reputation and pride points on the line in the rivalry matchup this week. Oklahoma is a road favorite by more than a touchdown, but the Sooners are relatively untested this season with wins over UTEP and Kent State, and despite the final results, Nebraska has proven capable at moving the ball in every contest this season. The Huskers have 866 yards through the air and 611 rush yards in three games this season, scoring at least 28 points in each.
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One of the more exciting matchups across the Week 3 college football slate on Saturday will see the Nittany Lions travel to Auburn’s Jordan-Hare stadium in an early litmus test for both teams, who are each sitting at a somewhat untested 2-0, having only faced unranked teams.
Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin said turnovers and discipline are concerns for the Tigers going into this game after the team turned the ball over twice and gave up 85 yards on 9 penalties against San Jose State in Week 2. He called Penn State “much better” than the teams they’ve faced so far, noting the Nittany Lions’ fast and physical style of .
The Tigers have an offensive star in junior running back Tank Bigsby, but with only one passing touchdown so far this season, they have shown little capacity to mix up their offensive approach, which may haunt them against a stronger defense like Penn State.
The game could prove crucial for Harsin, who many thought wouldn’t be around for a second season at Auburn after the Tigers went 6-7 in 2021.
Similarly, the win could build legitimacy for Penn State and head coach James Franklin, who are coming off a 7-6 year.
Freshman running back Nick Singleton had a breakout week for Penn State last week, putting up 179 yards and two touchdowns against Ohio and adding dimension to an offense that has been defined by Sean Clifford’s passing performances in recent seasons.
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Despite the big numbers both teams have put up in their early-season wins, this matchup between the Spartans and Huskies in Seattle is liable to turn into more of a defensive contest, as Michigan State (2-0) is averaging 6.5 points allowed (7th in FBS) and the Huskies (2-0) are averaging 13. Similarly, both teams are averaging fewer than 300 total yards allowed per game through two contests.
Michigan State has a standout defender in linebacker Jacoby Windmon, who leads all FBS players with 5.5 individual sacks and 4 forced fumbles this season. Windmon has only played two games as a Spartan since transferring from UNLV ahead of the 2022 season. His effort has helped Michigan State average only 81.5 rush yards allowed through the first two games of the season.
As a result, Washington is likely to rely on continued success from junior quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who’s averaging more than 330 yards per game with 6 touchdowns and 1 interception in the Huskies’ two wins this season.
Michigan State’s QB Payton Thorne is still looking for a rhythm, having thrown for 4 touchdowns but 3 interceptions so far. The Spartans’ rushing core has led the way on offense, highlighted by sophomore running back Jalen Berger’s 4 touchdowns, including three last week against Akron.
The Huskies are the slight favorite heading into the weekend, but Michigan State’s defense is likely to keep the Spartans in contention throughout the night, and head coach Mel Tucker’s coaching experience may give them even more of an edge against Washington’s Kalen DeBoer, who’s in just his third NCAA season and first with the Huskies.


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