Howard upset previously unbeaten Alcorn State, 17-10, yesterday in the Prince George's Classic before a sparse crowd at FedEx Field to earn its first win of the season. The Braves, who had been on the verge of breaking into the Division I-AA top 25 polls, lost for the first time in seven games, dating from last season.
"It was just unbelievable that they played that hard," Howard Coach Ray Petty said of his players. "I think this is a game that's going to get us started."
Howard's Roland Colbert evades Alcorn State defenders to pick up yardage. Bison held on to end Braves' 6-game winning streak.
(Mark Gail -- The Washington Post)
Freshman place kicker Justin Brantley made three field goals and defensive end Michael Brown (Bishop McNamara) returned a fumble for a touchdown to lead the Bison (1-2). It was the first time since 1996 that Howard had made three field goals in a game.
"It's just a big win," Brown said. "I don't want to blow it out of proportion because we have another team to prepare for next week."
Howard won despite quarterback Marcos Moreno's failure to complete a pass. He went 0 for 7, was intercepted twice and completed a two-point conversion pass.
"I give credit to Alcorn State's defense," Moreno said. "Their DBs react fast."
Moreno said he's not too concerned about his ignominious stats. "A 'W' feels real better than a completion right now," he said.
Alcorn State had one last chance to send the game into overtime. With 14 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Donald Carrie threw a pass in the end zone that was intercepted by Antoine Bethea, sealing Howard's victory.
This win belonged to Howard's defense. After allowing 74 points in its first two games, the defense stifled Alcorn State (2-1). The Bison held the Braves to minus-three yards rushing and 39 yards total offense in the first half. For the game, Alcorn State managed 243 yards, 108 of them rushing. The Braves came into the game averaging 27 points per game.
Howard's defense suffered only one notable lapse. On Alcorn State's first drive after halftime, the Bison had backed up the Braves to the 1-yard line. But on third and 15, Ronald Bartell was called for defensive pass interference. The penalty moved Alcorn State to its 16. Two plays later, Bartell, not wanting another penalty, gave wide receiver Charlie Spiller too much of a cushion. Carrie connected with Spiller on a 54-yard pass play that the put the Braves on the Bison 32.
Alcorn State wasn't done picking on Bartell. At the end of their 10-play, 94-yard drive, the Braves scored when Johnny Washington eluded Bartell's coverage to catch a nine-yard touchdown pass from Carrie. The touchdown pass gave Alcorn State its first lead, 7-6.
"I took the blame" for the touchdown, Bartell said. "I lost focus. I kind of let [the penalty] get to me. They saw I was frustrated. They kept coming at me that drive."
The Bison defense redeemed itself on Alcorn State's next drive. When Carrie bobbled the snap on third and seven from the Howard 8, Brown scooped up the ball and took off running. Brown didn't stop until he reached Alcorn State's end zone. Last year, Howard set a Division I-AA season record for fumbles returned for a touchdown with six.
"It's a long run," Brown said. "I sprinted for as long as I could."
Moreno completed his first pass of the game not to an opposing player when he connected with Jay Colbert on the two-point conversion as Howard reclaimed the lead, 14-7, with 4 minutes 36 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Bison's first score was a 39-yard field goal by Brantley, the first field goal of his career. He also kicked a 40-yarder and a 33-yarder.