Fourth-string quarterback Charles Seay, playing the longest stint of his career, tossed one touchdown pass and guided Howard on three other scoring drives yesterday as the Bison registered a 24-17 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference victory over North Carolina Central.
The Bison survived a 445-yard offense onslaught by the Eagles to even their conference mark at 3-3 and raise their overall record to 4-5, NCC dropped its third straight for a 2-7 overall mark and is 2-3 in the MEAC.
The injury-depleted hosts were without the services of three starting offensive linemen, necessitating the use of three freshmen. Howard's inexperience showed in the first half as the Bison line failed to produce a sustained running attack, 18 attempts gaining 39 yards.
But Howard put it together in the final 30 minutes, rushing for 171 yeards and controlling the ball to the extent that the Bison ran 15 more plays from scrimmage than Central.
"I knew we'd have problems with the new people on the line," said Bison Coach Doug Porter. "But we made some adjustments in the second half, executed better and ran more to the inside to take advantage of them blitzing their outside linebackers."
The Eagles, behind the scrambling and passing of quarterback Alvin Cauthorn and the running of Melvin Crawley, took the opening kickoff and moved into Bison territory. A 30-yard reception by Crawley put the ball on the Bison 35. But on second down. Charles Hill intercepted a Cauthorn pass on the Bison five and returned the ball 27 yards.
Central's last possession of the first the game. The Eagles drove from their 15 in 12 plays to score on Anthony Judd's one-yard plunge. Running back Ernest Strickland, who had missed Central's last three games with a knee injury, carried six times for 55 yards.
The Bison came back to march 75 yards on the ensuing possession.Third-string quarterback Raymond Gray, who started because of injuries to Ronald Wilson (jammed finger) and Brian Thomas (bruised thigh), completed consecutive passes of 23 and 40 yards to wingback Steve Wilson, the last one for the touchdown. But Howard Ward's extra point kick was wide, the first of two he missed.
A lost fumble by Gray gave Central the ball on the Bison 16 in the second quarter. On second down, Judd burst through the middle on a draw for a quarter produced the first points of 15-yard touchdown and a 14-6 NCC lead.
Defenseive back Richard Massey stopped a potential scoring drive by the visitors when he recovered Joseph Mack's fumble on the Bison 25. Gray, who already had thrown two interceptions, was lifted in favor of Seay. The junior passer then completed a 26-yarder to Grey Banes, fullback Leonard Orr ran for eight yards, NCC was called for holding and wide receiver Reginald Sejourner got opera on a post pattern for a 28-yard touchdown catch. The conversion pass failed and NCC led at the half, 14-12.
With Seay continuing to connect on passes to Banes and Wilson, the Bison opened the second half by moving from their 27 to set up Ward's 37-yard field goal. A roughing-the-punter call on fourth and 10 kept Howard's drive alive.
Defensive end William Lee recovered a Cauthorn fumble on the Central 14 on NCC's next series. On the fifth play, Cornelins Quarles burst through the middle for a two-yard touchdown on fourth down to give the Bison a 21-14 lead.
Howard closed out its scoring by moving from its 18 late in the third quarter. A 26-yard pass to Fitz Fowler and 25 yards rushing by Beeman Veasley keyed the march, which ended with Ward's 36-yard field goal.
From that point, a renewed Bison defense, sparked by linebackers James Graham and Thomas Clark and defensive end Larry Hamilton, limited the visitors to a 27-yard field goal by Eric Hines. Clark intercepted backup quarterback William Marbury's desperation pass on the game's next-to-last play.
Steve Wilson's best day of the season (six receptions for 99 yards) plus Veasley's 70 yards on 15 rushes helped the Bison register their best offensive outpout of the season, 374 yards.