South Carolina State played dead the first half before mugging Howard University, 27-0, before 17,139 in a Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference game yesterday at Giants Stadium.
State, the MEAC champion the last four years, rolled up 295 yards on the ground, most of it between the tackles, and finished with 418 yards.
Sophomore tailback Cornelius Reed, playing in place of his brother Jackie, who has a leg injury, and quarterback Nate Rivers followed the crunching blocks of the Bulldogs' huge offensive line (averaging 245 yards). Reed ran for 163 yards on 25 carries and Rivers picked up 126 on 18 carries.
Through some minor miracle, Howard kept the quick Bulldogs out of the end zone in the first half. State moved the ball down field against Howard's defense but two fumbles and five penalities frustrated its scoring efforts. The closest the Bulldogs out of the end zone in the first half. State moved the ball down field against Howard's defense buttwo fumbles and five penalties frustrated its scoring efforts. The closest the Bulldogs, who entered the contest averaging 38 points per game, came to scoring was a 35-yard field goal attempt late in the first period by Malcolm Montgomery. The ball was tipped by Theodore Robinson and sailed wide left.
"We made a few mistakes early in the game," said S.C. State Coach Willie Jeffries. "Howard did a fine job of closing off the option in the first half."
Howard was not in the game the second half. The Bulldogs came out snorting and before 40 seconds had elapsed had taken a 7-0 lead. Starting at its 17, S.C. State needed only four plays to start the expected rout. Rivers hit split end Charlie Brown with a 55-yard touchdown pass the defensive back Jack King misjudged. Montgomery booted his first of three extra points and the Bulldogs had all they needed to raise their conference mark to 3-0 and overall record to 4-0.
Howard's running game disappeared under a wave of beef, led by Walt Sullivan (6-foot-5, 270 pounds), Raleigh Jackson (6-1, 215) and John Alford (6-2, 240). The Bison lost an embarrassing 27 yards rushing after intermission after managing a modest 65 yards the first two periods.
"We just jumped on their linemen the second half," said Alford. They didn't come off the ball too well and we just ran past them."
Alford and his sack-happy mates mostly ran over the younger and inexperienced Bison offensive linemen to nail Howard runners for one loss after another. Quarterbacks Ronald Wilson and Raymond Gray did manage to clude the Bulldog front line and to comnplete 11 to 21 passes for 131 yards.
Howard was hampered by the loss of flanker Steve Wilson, the leading pass receiver in the school's history. After catching his 72nd pass in four years for a 33-yard gain in the second period, Wilson suffered a hip pointer and sat out the remainder of the game.
"You can't do the things you want to do when you lose your best players," complained Howard Coach Doug Porter. "We got a lot of bumps and bruises out there and since we have eight more games to play . . . we play Florida A&M next week and we'll need them."
Because the offense was so inffective, the Howard defense was asked to put in overtime. But the early zip was gone and the Bulldogs burned the Bison for three scores in the final 12 1/2 minutes.
A Ronald Wilson fumble gave the Bulldogs possession at the Howard 19. Five plays later, the dancing Rivers slithered away from safety Robert Wingfield and ran over from eight yards out.
"Rivers could have run all day," said Jeffries. "He would have had a mint if we let him run all day. The pass was open, too, but we didn't throw that much. But we're a ground team and everybody knows it."
Interceptions late in the game led to the final two touchdowns. Gray's first attempt was picked off by Ronnie Burton at the Bulldog 27. Rivers, after watching Reed rip upfield for 44 yards, went the final inches on a sneak.
"We put Gray in to try to put something on the board," said Porter. "He's our best passer although he didn't look like it out there."
Gray's second interception, by William Judson, came with a minute on the clock. Prince Phillips, seeing his first action this season, hit Marion Brown with a perfect 24-yard strike with 37 seconds left to close out the scoring.
"Not to take anything away from Howard, three of our starters stayed at home," said Jeffries. "We got a chance to play our reserves and that will help us later in the year. Now we don't have to worry about injuries. We have good people to come in."
Howard, now 0-2, couldn't tell the difference.