The Howard players whooped and hollered. The students stormed the field. The coaches hugged and slapped high-fives. In a game filled with wild momentum swings, there was as much relief as there was joy following the Bison's 42-35 overtime victory against Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference rival Morgan State yesterday at Greene Stadium.
In overtime, Marcos Moreno scored on a four-yard touchdown run, and Brian Johnson forced a fumble that was recovered by Mike Sanders to give Howard its fourth consecutive win. The Bison (4-2, 1-1 MEAC), which matched their win total from last season, had not won four in a row since winning their final four games of the 1998 season.
"I just love these guys," Howard Coach Ray Petty said. "They refused to quit. They held together, believed, played as a team and pulled out a big victory. This is a great victory for us."
In college overtime, each team gets the ball on the opponent's 25-yard line. Morgan State (2-5, 1-3) won the coin toss and elected to defer on offense. Howard's first two plays were incomplete passes. Then, on third and 10, Moreno completed a 15-yard pass to Larry Duncan. On the next play, Jay Colbert (19 carries, 106 yards) rushed for six yards to the 4. The final play came down to Moreno. Finding his receivers covered, Moreno saw an opening and took off, scooting into the end zone.
Morgan State had a chance to send the game into a second extra period. The Bears had first and goal at the 9 when quarterback Bradshaw Littlejohn was hit by Johnson. The ball bounced up, hit Sanders in the face mask and fell to the ground. In the scramble to recover it, the ball was kicked before Sanders finally fell on it.
Moreno called it the biggest victory in the team's four-game winning streak.
"I just knew that we had to come out with a victory," Moreno said. "We believed from the beginning of the game, from the beginning of the week, we believed we were going to win the game. Everybody stood strong and we won the game."
It certainly wasn't the prettiest win. Howard's offense stalled at crucial junctures, forcing the Bison to settle for field goals rather than touchdowns. The defense, which had yielded only 23 points in its last three games, allowed 21 points in the first half. Special teams had three significant breakdowns: two fumbles on kickoff returns and a snap that went over the punter's head. Morgan State scored touchdowns on two of those miscues.
Yet despite its poor play in spots, Howard found a way to win. Moreno had perhaps the best game of his career, completing 13 of 27 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns. It was the first time this season the Bison gained more passing than rushing yards (156). Even though he threw an interception to start the fourth quarter, Moreno kept his mistakes to a minimum.
"I was trying to play it safe, keep the ball in our hands, control it," Moreno said.
Trailing 32-20 with 5 minutes 55 seconds to play, the Bison came out throwing. Moreno completed a five-yard touchdown pass to Duncan to make it 32-26. After a failed fake punt attempt by Morgan State gave Howard the ball on the Bears 37, Moreno completed a nine-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Tyson, then found Samuel Buck for the two-point conversion pass.
Morgan State's Nathan Keever then sent the game to overtime with a 37-yard field goal with five seconds remaining.
LA SALLE 56, CATHOLIC 22: Ken Triboletti rushed for 219 yards and scored three touchdowns to lead the Explorers (3-4) over the Cardinals in Philadelphia. Catholic (0-5) was led by Anthony Durham, who completed 29 for 47 passes for 242 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score.
TOWSON 41, BOWIE ST. 7: The Tigers (3-3) improved to 5-0 all-time against the visiting Bulldogs (3-5) in their first meeting since 1977. Isaac Redman ran for 95 yards and a touchdown for Bowie, which has lost three straight.