Howard University found the perfect answer to its ills yesterday in Delaware State and defeated the visitors, 37-6 to gain its first victory of the year before 3,000 at Howard Stadium.
The Bison, 1-2 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and 1-3 overall, did not exactly dominate as the score might indicate.
But thanks to some shoddy tackling, untimely penalties and seven turnovers by the winless Hornets, Howard enjoyed a laughter.
"It's a case of Delaware beating Delaware. We made too many mistakes," said Delaware State guard Gregory Coleman. "It's been like this all year. We just can't seem to get started."
Actually, things began rather well for the 0-5 Hornets. Tom Douglass intercepted Brian Thomas's second pass of the game to give DSU the ball at the Bison 30-yard line with just two minutes elapsed in the opening period.
But Howard's defense, which limited the Hornets to 144 yards, held and State was on its way to a long frustrating afternoon.
"That series hurt them and helped us," said Howard Coach Doug Porter. "When you're losing, it's hard to snap back and get back into the groove. You have to get a couple of breaks. We got a few and they didn't."
The scoring parade began early in the second period. After an 85-yard Howard drive ended at the DSU one, the generous Hornets gave the ball right back two plays later on a fumble.
Leonard Orr capped the brief, seven-yard scoring drive for Howard with a one-yard run. Howard Ward's kick made it 7-0 with 13:49 left in the period.
DSU did nothing on its next series and punted. Steve Wilson took Phil Jackson's high, spiraling boot at his own 45, ran across the field, picked up a wall of blockers at midfield and never broke stride until he crossed the goal line.
Ward's kick was tipped but it went through the uprights to increase Howard's advantage to 14-0, only 10 seconds into the second period.
"I think that punt return opened up things for us," said Thomas, who completed four of 13 passes for 29 yards and one touchdown. "We didn't have to throw as much because our running game was working. Our backs ran . . real good."
DSU spent most of the second period trying to cross midfield. Each time the Hornets got close, a penalty or missed assignment sent them backward.
Howard completed its 21 point second period when Cornelius Quarrles barreled over from a yard out to end an 80-yard march with 1:50 left. DSU penalties accounted for 50 of the yards on the drive.
"Nothing has gone our way all season. You need a little luck in everything, especially football, and we haven't had any," said losing Coach Ed Wyche. "Every time we make a mistake, it costs us. When the other teams make one, nothing happens."
Howard can't afford to celebrate too long. Except for Greg Bains' 86-yard effort on 17 carries and reserve back Veeman Beasley's 48 yards on just four tries, the Howard offense generated little. The Bison finished with just 209 yards, 158 rushing.
A blocked punt by linebacker Larry Hamilton, who also had nine tackles, two fumble recoveries and an interception, gave the Bison good field position at the DSU 20 in the third period. Five plays later. Thomas hit Wallace Mason with a nine-yard scoring toss.
The Bison got the ball right back on Hamilton's interception. But DSU, for what must have seemed like the umpteenth time, stopped the Bison at the 17. Ward, who had an extra point blocked, made a 34-yard field goal to put the Bison ahead, 30-0, 6:53 left in the third period.
Porter,though not overly pleased with his offense, said he felt there was some improvement. The last two games, Bison runners had gained 82 yards against South Carolina State and Floria A&M.
"We still have continuity problems. We only have one lineman who is a junior, the rest are freshmen and sophomores," said Porter. "Bains did a good job. Maybe he is the stabilizer we've been looking for."
Porter had no complaints about his defense.Thomas Spears, James Graham and Hamilton seemed to be in the right place all afternoon. Andre Brown never got time to set up and completed but four of 22 passes for 22 yards.
"We just stuck with our 5-2 defense most of the game. They didn't open any holes for their backs and had to pass," said Graham, a 6-foot-3, 215 pound senior linebacker. "We showed much improvement on defense as a unit. This was a must game to us and we had to show something."
Ronald Wilson raced 19 yards on a quarterback-run-for-your-life scramble touchdown with 5:35 to play for the Bison's final score, and Porter filled the field with substitutes.