CoachSpeak: Harrell Talks Howard v Rutgers

Howard was not competitive in its 2009 loss to Rutgers but has a new coach and quarterback controversy heading into Saturday's matchup. Second-year coach Gary Harrell discussed his upcoming game against Rutgers and the latest on his team after a 30-29 victory at RFK Stadium over Morehouse State.

Howard is, in many ways, the FCS mirror of the Rutgers football team. Howard's Gary Harrell, though in his second season, is a first-time head coach and at his dream school, where he once starred as a wide receiver.

Just like Rutgers won excitingly at the home of the New Orleans Saints last week, Howard had a thrilling comeback victory at RFK Stadium – the former home of the Washington Redskins.

The most interesting, and entertaining, similarity comes in the form of uncertainty at quarterback.

Howard came into the season with junior Randy Liggins as a starter, but he took the bench in the 30-29 win over Morehouse State and watched true freshman Jamie Cunningham lead his team to victory.

"[Liggins] just lost it and at that time the head coach had to make a decision," said Harrell on the quarterback change. "We just watched his eyes and the things he was doing on the sidelines as though he wasn't able to go back in. At the time, I don't think he was able to go back in and be effective as far as being mentally prepared and mentally tuned into the game and help us win."

Cunningham came in for the fourth quarter and his 13-yard touchdown pass won the game with 22 seconds on the clock.

"Jamie came in under those circumstances and just ran the offense in a way we really didn't think he could do," Harrell said. "We didn't know what Jamie could do, but Jamie came in. It was one of situations when you don't know what he can do until he gets in. That's a plus. We were able to get him some game experience. He came in and played courageously."

Much like the never-ending Gary Nova or Chas Dodd battle at Rutgers, Harrell received a heavy dose of quarterback questions in his weekly teleconference with the media.

"We have two young quarterbacks that are going to be here for the next three or four years," he said. "Any time you have that situation, you've got a shot as far as building your program."

Harrell was on the sidelines with Morgan State during the 2008 thrashing by Rutgers that features three Jourdan Brooks touchdowns.

With a strong respect for head coach Kyle Flood, Harrell will push his team to be mentally prepared as huge underdogs.

"Like I told my guys [Monday], there's no doubt about it," Harrell said. "They've got a great, great, great team. Coach Flood does a great job. They're very aggressive. They're very fast. They're active. They're a very well coached team. … Like I told my guys, at one point coming out of high school, everybody wanted to play Division I football. Now here's your opportunity to go play Division I football."

On offense and defense, Harrell expects Rutgers to play physical and try to out-muscle his squad.

"That's Rutgers football ever since I've known them," he said. "Even when I was at Morgan State when we played them, that's them. They're a tough, tough team and a hardnosed team. They believe that they're strong. They have an excellent strength and conditioning program. They're 6-foot-4 across the board. They're just a tough team. They don't believe in finesse. They want to go right at you."


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