Despite an 0-2 start, Howard University football Coach Doug Porter has not panicked or thought about rewriting his playbook.
"We don't plan to change one thing," Porter said. "Our only problem has been too many mistakes. I'm really disturbed about that." We have young players and they have improved steadily. I saw some bright spots in the South Carolina State game last week. There was a lot of improvement from our first week.
"We just haven't made the big plays either offensively or defensively . . . Depth is a problem and we can't afford to lose anyone. Once we pull off a big play or two, I think we'll be fine."
In its first two contests, Howard had trouble making the small plays. The Bison committed every no-no in the book - penalties, dropped passes, fumbles - and dropped their season opener to lowly Maryland - Eastern Shore, 23-21. That disappointment was followed by a 27-0 whitewash by four time Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion South Carolina State last week.
Howard battled the Bulldogs on even terms the first half before wilting and came out of that contest with an assortment of injuries. Flanker Steve Wilson suffered a hip pointer and defensive tackle Tony Prince turned an ankle. Both are listed as doubtful for tomorrow's game at Florida A&M.
"State was big and physical and a lot of our people got banged up," said Porter. "It won't be much different this week because Florida plays the same way. Unfortunately, they may be the only team we play that's better than South Carolina State."
Howard definitely will have its hands full with the Rattlers. The only major-college team to finish unbeaten last year (11-0), FAMU possesses the nation's longest winning streak at 14.
FAMU has speed, depth and muscle.
Eighteen Rattler running backs have totaled 549 yards this season. Senior tailback Ike Williams leads the bunch with 174.
Al Chester is the same type passing-running quarterback that Howard has had troubled with in the past. He runs the option extremely well and has completed nine of 22 passes for 213 yards and one touchdown.
The FAMU defense ranks second overall among the Division I-AA schools. It has allowed an average of 90 yards rushing and 46 passing per game.
"I'm not deluding myself. And the kids are very realistic," said Porter. "There's no sense in thinking we're going down there and win, 60-0. However, the players do realize if they play extemely well we'll have a good chance to beat Florida. This team has the capabilities."
Howard has not shown much consistency. Porter has tried three of his quarterbacks - Ronald Wilson, Brian Thomas and Raymond Gray - but none has been impressive.
"Wilson will start Saturday," Porter said.
"Gray is our best passer and we've gone to him late in the game to try to move the offense. I know we can't change every week but we do have to do something to reduce the number of mistakes we've been making."
Gray, a 6-foot sophomore, is not overjoyed with his role but he isn't complaining.
"I feel I could start but I don't mind coming in late in the game," said Gray. "I was used as a passing quarterback in high school so I'm used to coming if off the bench. Ron's been around a little longer and he has that experience. I think we complement each other pretty good."
Wilson completed 10 of 16 passes for 109 yards last week, but was unable to move the team in for a score and Gray relieved him. However, S.C. State simply looked for passes and intercepted Gray's first two attempts. Both led to fourth-period touchdowns.
"We're improving day by day and we'll get it together, I know we'll see, some brighter times than right now," said Gray.