Undermanned Howard feels the pain in homecoming defeat

By Kathy Orton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 31, 2010

Norfolk St.Howard

One word sums up Howard's season: injuries. The Bison are banged up at just about every position, but their wounds are most noticeable on offense. The ever-rotating cast of quarterbacks, running backs and offensive linemen may be the biggest reason Howard has been offensively challenged this season.

The Bison went into Saturday's 10-9 homecoming loss to Norfolk State without all-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference wide receiver Willie Carter, who injured his ankle in last week's loss at North Carolina A&T. Running back Justin Duncan came back after missing four weeks because of a lower back and hip injury, but running back Charles Brice, who had led Howard in rushing the past four weeks, went out in the second quarter with a shoulder injury.

"Injuries are really killing us," said running back Brandon Drayton, who scored the Bison's lone touchdown Saturday. "I believe if we have the right people on the field I think it makes it a whole lot easier for the offensive coordinator to call the plays. It's tough running the triple-option. It's all about chemistry, timing, rhythm. Us switching quarterbacks, switching offensive linemen, it can throw us off."

The 7,086 at Greene Stadium didn't have much to cheer about. Howard (1-7, 0-5), which has lost four of its past five homecoming games, dropped its 24th consecutive conference game. The Bison are now 2-27 in MEAC games under Coach Carey Bailey, who is in his fourth season.

"We've had as many as 10 to 13 starters out," Bailey said. "We've lost six or seven [players] for the season. . . . What is going to allow us to turn [the season around] is really just being healthy and hopefully getting some guys back."

Howard gained just 44 rushing yards and 34 passing yards, finishing with less than 100 yards in total offense.

The Bison had their chances against Norfolk State (3-5, 2-4), which snapped a four-game losing streak, but they couldn't capitalize. On its second possession, Howard marched down to the Spartans 15-yard line. On third and eight, freshman quarterback Randy Liggins Jr. was sacked for an 11-yard loss, forcing the Bison to try a field goal. The 44-yard attempt sailed wide right.

Free safety Lanny Kelly, who missed last week's game with an AC joint sprain, set up Howard's only offensive score when he picked off Chris Walley's pass and returned it 30 yards to the Norfolk State 20.

The Bison nearly squandered this opportunity, too. A pass interference penalty on third and nine moved the ball from the 19 to the 3. Liggins and Brice each tried to run the ball into the end zone, to no avail. Then, on fourth and goal from the 1, Drayton went around the left side and across the goal line for his first touchdown of the season.

Howard's lead was gone before halftime. Norfolk State's DeAngelo Branche burst through a gaping hole in the middle of the field and ran 18 yards into the end zone to tie the score at 7.

In the third quarter, Norfolk State's Ryan Estep kicked a 31-yard field goal to break the tie. With 3 minutes 14 seconds left in the game, Howard's DeAngelo Moody blocked a Spartans punt into the end zone for a safety.

"It hurts" to lose, Kelly said. "Especially to be so close. We played a great game as a defense. It's just one of those feelings you can't describe."

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