Howard was 31 seconds away from its first shutout in two years when Charleston Southern scored. Although the Buccaneers' touchdown drive was meaningless to the outcome, it marred an otherwise strong performance by the Bison defense in Howard's 24-6 nonconference victory yesterday at Greene Stadium.
"We were very, very disappointed," linebacker Mike Sanders said. "We had the shutout in our hands, and it just went right through our fingertips. We wanted that shutout."
Quarterback Marcus Moreno rushed for two touchdowns and threw for another, and Howard (3-2) won its third straight. The Bison had not won three in a row since the 2002 season, its only winning season in the last five years.
Howard's defense is an athletic, physical unit, but its mental aptitude stood out against Charleston Southern (3-2). The Bison constantly shifted formations and disguised coverages to fluster and confuse the Buccaneers and their no-huddle offense.
"When we got into the game, we got more and more used to the [quarterback's] cadence," Sanders said. "The quarterback would pause for a second to see what we did [defensively]. We would start to move then because we knew the first cadence was a bluff so we would bluff him. . . . We pretty much knew we had to keep moving and giving them bad reads."
Besides creating confusion, Howard's defense applied relentless pressure on Buccaneers quarterback Collin Drafts. Bison defenders batted down 11 of Drafts' passes. They sacked him twice and hurried him another 12 times.
"The coaches have been getting on us the past couple weeks about our pass rush and our blitzes, how we weren't getting there," defensive end Jarrett Burgess said.
Offensively, Howard also came away disappointed in its missed opportunities. Entering the game, the Bison had scored on 11 of 11 opportunities inside the opponents' 20-yard line. Twice against Charleston Southern, Howard was inside the Buccaneers 20-yard line and instead turned over the ball. In the first quarter, on third and five from the Charleston Southern 16, Moreno threw a pass toward Thyron Lewis that was intercepted by Tavares Shorter. Then right before halftime, on third and goal from the Buccaneers 6, Moreno tried to connect with Roland Colbert, but Shorter again stepped in front of the pass and intercepted it.
Another pass by Moreno was nearly picked off in the second quarter, but Larry Duncan snagged the ball for a 16-yard touchdown reception. Duncan caught a career-high four passes for 66 yards.
"The ball was up in the air," Duncan said. "The coach told me anytime the ball is up in the air, it's anybody's ball. I just went up and got the ball, made the quarterback look good."
Moreno, who has thrown nine interceptions and five touchdowns this season, is grateful he has a defense that makes up for his mistakes.
"The defense is great," Moreno said. "I just love the defense."
Bison Note: Houston Texans General Manager Charley Casserly was at the game. He is one of several NFL scouts who have watched cornerback Ronald Bartell Jr. this season.